Skip to main content


See other formats

920.0? I59t 


Keep Your Card in This Pocket 

Books will be issued only on presentation of proper 
library cards. 

Unless labeled otherwise, books may be retained 
for two weeks. Borrowers finding books marked, de 
faced or mutilated are expected to report same at 
library desk; otherwise the last borrower will be held 
responsible for all imperfections discovered. 

The card holder is responsible for all books drawn 
on this card. 

Penalty for over-due books 2c a day plus cost of 

Lost cards and change of residence must be re 
ported promptly. 

Public Library 

Kansas City, Mo. 



iBwPw?TifFWPwnwM HiniiMinii i nii 
D DDD1 D3fc,7177 




Lyman Bryson, Editor 

Stanley Romaine Hopper, Editor 



F. Ernest Johnson, Editor 







R. M. Maclver, Editor 

Liston Pope, Editor 


Louis Finkelstein 

F. Ernest Johnson R. M. Maclver 

George N. Shuster 





Louis Finkelstein 


Published by 



Distributed by 




rights reserved including the right 
of reproduction in us hole or in part 
in any -form. 



t>tsith affection, and admiration 
this boof^ is dedicated 

February 3, 1953 

This volume includes eleven lectures given at The In 
stitute for Religious and Social Studies o The Jewish 
Theological Seminary of America during the winter o 
1949-1950. Unfortunately Dr. Adolf A. Berle, Jr., could 
not write for publication his address in the series. The 
chapters by Mrs. Lieberman and Mr. Pickett were writ 
ten solely for the book and were not delivered as ad 
dresses. Each chapter in this volume represents solely 
the individual opinion of the author. 


Preface by Louis Finals tein xi 

Clarence E. Pickett i 

Ordway Tead 15 

Henry Norris Russell 31 

Edwin Grant Conklin 47 

Richard McKeon 77 

Erwin D. Canham 115 

Elbert D. Thomas 129 

Judith Berlin Lieberman 159 

Channing H. Tobias 177 

David de Sola Pool 201 

Basil O'Connor 219 

Willard L. Sperry 231 

Julian Morgenstern 253 

Biographical Sketches 275 

Index 285 



In the present volume of spiritual autobiographies, as in its pred 
ecessor, an effort has been made to bring before the public types of 
personality, which seem to be contributing to the preservation and 
advancement of civilization. Like all other human beings, those who 
have had the boldness and courage to reveal the secrets of their be 
ing, as they understand them, are limited and finite in outlook and 
in understanding. Yet unlike many others, they appear to be mak 
ing a determined effort to transcend this finitude. Though they dif 
fer widely among themselves, they have this trait in common they 
approach all other human beings with respect and affection. If it 
cannot be said that nothing human is alien to them, it may be said 
with precision that none of them regards any human being as alien 
to him. 

It is impressive to note how this trait affects the action and thought 
of the people here described, and also how each of them interprets 
his outlook in terms of his particular tradition and background. It 
is also comforting to consider that the writers of these autobiogra 
phies differ from other people only in the extent of their dedication, 
and in the scope of causes they serve, but not in kind. If the trait 
common to all the participants in this series is regarded as "saint- 
liness" or at least a degree of it, it may be said appropriately that 
this is a quality far more widespread among men than most of us 

To me, one of the main joys in reading this volume has been to 
think of the manner in which character is moulded in the home. 
Through these pages we can trace the spiritual growth not only of 
the writers but of those who stimulated and encouraged them; 
namely, their parents. 

I have found companionship and communion with the people 


xii Preface 

represented in this work an inspiration; and I part with it in the 
hope that this inspiration may in some degree also be shared by 
its readers. 

As I write these words, I must record with sorrow that one of 
the writers, Professor Edwin G. Conklin, died on November 20, 
1952. His passing is a personal loss to me, and it is a source of par 
ticularly poignant regret that he did not live to see this printed 
volume, in which he showed such real interest. 


January 14, 1953 




One day my mother, then well over eighty years old, told me in 
confidence a great secret. All my life, she had kept this tucked away 
in her innermost heart, biding the time when she felt it was appro 
priate to tell me. The secret was that when she found I was due to 
arrive in this world, the ninth child to whom she had given birth, 
seven of whom were still living, she was resentful. She was a little 
woman; she had little help in the house, except what the children 
could give to her; she was worn down and had supposed that she was 
beyond the age for child bearing. But the longed for rest from child 
bearing was not to be and for a time she was bitter. She told me of 
the spiritual struggle through which she went. But finally she came 
to the firm resolve to purge her spirit of all resentment, to look for 
ward cheerfully to the arrival of a new child, and to pray that he 
might be a devoted and useful member of the Kingdom of Heaven 
on earth, in which she so profoundly believed. Although at times 
she was quite unwell, she was able to maintain this attitude of mind 
while I was in prenatal preparation for launching on an earthly 

This explained to me the conversation that she had had with me 
when I was about ten years old. We lived on a Kansas farm, and as 
a growing boy one of my chores was to help with the vegetable 
garden. My mother and I were working in the garden together one 
day when she confided to me that she earnestly hoped I would be 
a missionary. My older sister, Minnie, had just gone to Japan, where 


2 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

she was to spend nearly fifty years o her life as a missionary. The 
current conception of the most complete devotion to one's religious 
faith was to become a missionary. Sharing that point of view, my 
mother had now expressed this vocational preference for me. And 
while in the technical sense her ambition has never been realized, I 
am sure that that first expression on her part, consistent as it was with 
her prenatal concern for me, has had no little influence on the 
direction which my life has taken. 

The influence of my father, while in full sympathy with this point 
of view, was brought to bear upon me in a different way. I am sure 
he never thought of the incidents that I am about to relate as being 
of special importance to his growing son. Nevertheless, in retrospect 
I see them as having a genuine spiritual influence. I had been born in 
Illinois in a little Quaker community thirty miles south of Chicago. 
But the attractiveness of that rich land had drawn to our community 
a large number of German Lutherans. Many retained the practice 
of speaking the German language. They seemed strange to us, and 
my father with a growing family was somewhat apprehensive of the 
influence of these newcomers on his children. Other factors, how 
ever, were responsible for his decision to move farther to the West. 
An inner struggle within the Society of Friends had resulted in wide 
differences of opinion concerning matters of practice and belief, and 
the little Quaker Meeting to which our family belonged had its 
share of dissension. To my father this was very disconcerting. Then 
there was the depression of the late '8os ? which had made the eco 
nomic struggle most difficult. My father made a trip to Kansas and 
there found a little colony where Quakers had built an academy, 
where there was a thriving and united Quaker Meeting. But one 
thing deeply disturbed him, and to that he resolved to make a 
contribution. The disturbing factor was the scrawny nature of the 
work horses which Kansas farmers used. He sold his farm in Illinois, 
bought two Percheron mares and a stallion with the avowed purpose 
of improving the breed of Kansas horses, not only for himself, but 
in the community at large to which he was going. That ambition 
was abundantly realized, and in this unusual fashion he made 
perhaps his most significant contribution to the economic life of the 

Clarence E. Pic\ett 5 

new community to which he took his growing family. His sense 
of mission concerning good and useful horseflesh was, I am sure, of 
more significance to his growing son than he had any notion. It was 
his form of technical assistance! 

The other story has to do with his deep and abiding sense of 
integrity. I was nine years younger than the brother next to me, and 
when all of them had left on their own, it was I who was looked to, 
to carry on the farm. During the later years of his life, my father 
was an invalid from rheumatism. We still owed $2,500 on the farm, 
a big debt in those days. My secret hope was to be able to get away 
to college when the debt was paid. We had grown a fine crop of hogs 
for the market, and together with other income, it looked as though 
at last we were going to be able to eliminate the mortgage. The hogs 
were almost ready for market, when one Sunday morning I went out 
to feed them and found one dead. Once cholera has started in a 
drove of hogs, it is likely that it will take the whole lot. A common 
practice, when the disease first appeared, was to rush all the well 
hogs to market hoping to get them to the packers without too much 
loss. Whether the contamination of hogflesh was transferable to 
humans who ate the diseased meat was an open question, but my 
father feared that it might jeopardize the health of the people who 
bought the meat. Without a moment's hesitation, therefore, he 
resolved not to run that risk and sent me to the nearby village where 
I routed out the railway station man (no trains ran on Sundays) 
and got him to telegraph to Kansas City for a new cure for hog 
cholera. The net result was that we saved a number of the hogs that 
were infected with the disease, but we had to fatten them all over 
again. With that additional expense all profits were gone. My plans 
for getting off to school had to be postponed. But the memory of 
that quick and accurate moral judgment of values on the part of my 
father always stayed with me as a contribution far more valuable 
than anything I would have gained by entering college one or two 
years earlier than I did. 

Our home was a devout one; we were always at Meeting on 
Sunday; we had prayers and Bible reading at every breakfast time. 
When wheat harvest and threshing time came around, it was always 

4 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

a temptation to question whether we might not forego Bible reading 
and prayer during this special harvest season because we had so many 
hired hands about. But as far as my memory goes, no such accommo 
dation was made. Nor was it simply my father offering a formal 
prayer on behalf of his family, but encouragement was given to any 
or all children or visitors to participate in the act of petition to a God 
Who was concerned with our welfare. Well do I remember times 
when, as a growing boy, I was anxious to get through with the 
ceremony and out into the more active pursuits of the day, but this 
performance was far more than a formal affair. Every attempt was 
made to make it a genuine moment of communion between the 
finite and the infinite. Whatever else may have come from that 
practice, I am sure there was built into my consciousness what still 
remains namely, the closeness and intimacy of God with all of 
His children, even though He is unseen and often unrecognized. 
Religion was never forced upon members of our household, and I 
never knew of any of the family resenting the devotional practices 
which were carried on. And I am sure that the reason we escaped 
any sense of cynicism or complaint was that without ever putting it 
into words we recognized the deep integrity and consistency of our 
parents' lives. 

As I see it now there was also a kind of holy restlessness which 
manifested itself from time to time in our family. My oldest brother 
had become a school teacher in the old community in Illinois, But 
partly because he did not think his little brood of growing boys 
ought to be brought up in town, and partly because of his yen for 
exploration, he decided to see what could be done to resettle his 
family on the land. He rode his bicycle from Illinois to our home in 
Kansas for a brief visit, and then on to Colorado where he found a 
setting as a market gardener to which he brought his family of four 
boys and a girl. My sister, Minnie, responding to this urge of the 
spirit, went East to Philadelphia to spend a year in study, and then 
was sent by Philadelphia Quakers as a teacher in the Friends' Girls 
School in Tokyo. I did not know then that Gilbert Bowles had 
asked for her hand in marriage and had been told that if after her 
five year term in Japan each of them still wanted to proceed with 

Clarence E. PicJ^ett 5 

marriage it would be allowed. But that was really what happened. 

I remember the day we hitched up two big work horses to a heavy 
lumber wagon and drove three and a half miles to the nearby town 
to put my sister on the train when she started on this long trip to 
the West Coast and then across the Pacific Ocean. She was a great 
letter writer. Letters came in rolls, yards in length. They were 
descriptive o Japan, of Japanese life, of her own work, of her 
interest in her family, and especially of her hope and aspirations for 
the growing, youngest member of the family. She did not like my 
writing, and sent me copies which I was to duplicate with my owri 
efforts and return to her for criticism. But the mystery, and the 
glamor, and the buoyance of her life as revealed in these letters, I 
am sure, tended to turn my mind in the direction of some form of 
social-religious service, and toward new horizons. 

Yes, my yen for exploration was caught by me partly from the 
intriguing experiences which my elder brothers and sisters were 
going through. One went off to Oklahoma to start life for himself; 
another married a Methodist minister, and the stories of their 
movings from one small parish to another almost yearly sounded to 
me like a wonderful life. I scarcely think it seemed so wonderful 
to my sister, who had to do the moving. 

Anyway, from somewhere came not so much a specific decision but 
the assumption that of course I would go to college. None of my 
brothers or sisters had had this privilege, and I cannot tell where 
my assumption came from. Perhaps it was the suggestion of some 
of the older members of my family who had had some taste of 
higher learning and who wanted more of it. 

Then there was by chance that precious year of high school when 
for some reason the village had invited a Quaker from Maine to be 
the superintendent of the school. He was a man of deep, religious 
spirit and of genuine literary culture. I had never met anyone quite 
like him. I think it was a hard year for him, because many of the 
students who came to high school had very inadequate preparation. 
But his wide knowledge of literature, of astronomy, of various parts 
of our own country, and his deep religious spirit I think uncon 
sciously made me want to be like him. 

6 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

One other factor in our community life which I am sure had its 
influence on me was the development of the Society of Friends. My 
earlier days were spent in a Meeting where we had no professional 
pastor; the ministry came from our neighbors, all of whom were 
farmers. James Pitts, our neighbor to the south, although a man of 
little formal education, had read widely, and as I think back now to 
the frequent and brief contributions that he made in our meetings for 
worship, I realize that they were profound, searching, and some 
times even eloquent. My family felt that he indulged in words that 
were not commonly understood sometimes; he certainly did have an 
unusual vocabulary, but he was a great spirit and of a very sound 

We were a little colony of Quakers, but we had some sense of 
responsibility for the people on the periphery of the community, 
whose habits sometimes showed up in objectionable ways. Now and 
again we would hear of drinking and dancing parties, quite un 
known to our community. A professional minister came along 
imbued with the revivalist spirit of that time. He held a series of 
revival meetings in our community, and some of the people of whom 
we had been critical were "converted" and joined our Meeting. This 
expansion of interest and responsibility led to an important step. We 
employed the revival minister to be our pastor. I saw this process 
going on and welcomed it as a genuine progress. Perhaps it was. 
Over the years I have found myself welcoming the opportunity to 
return to the religious service where no professional leadership is 
required, but where the ministry arises out of the experience and the 
search of the members of the group itself. 

We also took on more the color of general Protestantism when we 
organized the Christian Endeavor Society. This movement starting 
in the Congregational Church in Portland, Maine, swept throughout 
churches of the country as a great young people's movement. Each 
member who joined accepted the responsibility to participate in some 
way in each meeting that was held. While I was later to study in a 
theological seminary and take training in public speaking, no course 
I ever had in the art of public address did more to enable me to get 
on my feet and express myself than the experience in that little 

Clarence E. Pic^ett j 

Christian Endeavor Society. I am not sure how much it deepened my 
spiritual life, but it did have the effect of enabling one to give ex 
pression to his thoughts and experiences; sometimes I am afraid it 
was a bit perfunctory, but it was a good training ground. 

The other and more searching influence which came from the 
nature of our community was the occasional traveling minister who 
came to our Meeting. Our house was the largest one in the com 
munity, and, therefore, the visiting minister usually stayed with us. 
I can recall at least a score of men and women who became members 
of our household for a few days or for as much as two months, who 
came from various parts of the country as concerned Quakers to 
nourish the growing life of the spirit in these scattered groups and 
colonies of Friends in the western prairies. Among all the visits, 
that of Henry Stanley Newman then editor of The Friend, an English 
Quaker magazine, stands out as of special significance. On Monday 
mornings we always did the family washing, and as a growing boy 
my job was to run the washing machine. Never shall I forget how 
surprised and gratified I was when this distinguished and some 
what austere Friend from England helped me run the washing 
machine on Monday morning after his speaking to us at our Meeting 
for Worship on the preceding day. As we alternated in turning the 
handle, he talked to me about life in England and of the orphanage 
that he had helped to establish, about the Quaker schools in England, 
and the Quaker Meetings. And when he went away, I am sure there 
was planted deep within me a feel for spiritual maturity which I had 
not known before. 

I was twenty-two years old when I went to Penn College in Iowa. 
This struggling little institution, with the poorest of buildings and 
facilities, had a few great teachers. There was Dr. Stephen Hadley, 
who always seemed to me a paragon of learning, who through the 
instruments o calculus and astronomy instilled the concept of 
accuracy and precision in thinking, and who always left the im 
pression with me that it was possible to develop the same accuracy 
in moral and spiritual judgments. Without being arrogant, he seemed 
to have endless assurance of the Tightness of the decision which he 
reached, which was a good counterbalance to the age of relativity 

8 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

I was soon to encounter. I have never known a better teacher any 
where than Rosa Lewis, who introduced me to Shakespeare, and 
Browning, and Wordsworth. Her beauty of appearance, her charm 
of manner, her effectiveness in speech, her personal interest in her 
students, at least illustrated what life might be. Then there was 
William Berry, teacher of the classical languages. He experimented 
with a class in Hebrew in my day. Alexander Purdy, a lifelong 
friend, and myself survived the year's course. But for me at least 
that innocent study of the language was really the beginning of 
understanding a critical study of the Bible and was an introduction 
to the thought and spirit of its authors. Professor Berry did not have 
to point out to us that there were two very different stories of the 
Creation in the book of Genesis. We discovered it ourselves and 
wondered how it could all happen. That day there was great fear on 
the part of many devoutly religious people that a critical study of 
the scriptural text would destroy faith. I have always been grateful 
that my approach to that problem was through the instrument of 
language. I cannot see how anyone can study the Hebrew text with 
out coming away from it with a deepened sense that what we have 
is not a piece of literature mechanically produced, but one which 
grows out of the long hard struggle of a group of God's children to 
find the way to moral conduct and spiritual appreciation through 
many failures and some successes, and over thousands of years. To 
some, too, comes the sense of the rebel, the prophet who defies the 
customs, the mores, and the practices of his own time, who listens 
for the moral judgments of God Himself and not the evil which his 
neighbors practice. One saw the relative unimportance of the state, 
as compared with the central importance of the spirit of a dedicated 
life. One understood why Isaiah or why Amos had long outlived, in 
importance, any of the kings or states. 

I was in college when the Student Volunteer Movement was at 
its height. Of all the extracurricular activities, none excepted, I 
believe it would be fair to say that the most highly respected group on 
the campus was this little band of students who anticipated being 
missionaries. The evangelization of the world in this generation was 
the great cry being sounded throughout the Christian world. There 

Clarence E. Pic^ett p 

was a strong sentiment in our college for sharing in this great enter 
prise. Little did we know, however, that the evangelization of the 
world was needed about as much at home as anywhere. But the 
inevitable happened. Those who belonged to our Student Volunteer 
Movement discovered this to be true. As I look back on it now, I 
cannot think of a single one who was in that band, who spent a life 
time in the mission field outside of this country; a few had short 
terms teaching in foreign countries. But what the group really 
represented was a vocational fellowship of those who had tried to 
take seriously their religious life. Had the band in my college been 
centered around that motive, it would have more nearly represented 
what was to happen. There were three callings that we knew about: 
farming, school teaching, and some kind of definite religious activity. 
And although most of us came from the farm, the college turned out 
to be an orientation course for urban living for a great majority. One 
may regret that such a great migration was taking place from the 
farm to the city, but it was happening, and under those circumstances 
Penn College was for me about as good an introduction as I could 
have had to urban life. It talked not about adaptation, but attempted 
to cultivate the fundamental values of life, and put a high premium 
on the significance of men as God's children. While there was some 
feeling of being on the escalator going up and a kind of predestination 
of success, there was no illusion that success came without dedication 
and hard work. But I think we never could imagine the possibility 
of war happening again. Perhaps the phase of life which had least 
meaning for us was suffering. Many a time in later years, in dealing 
with individuals and groups of people who were hungry, and naked, 
and homeless, or in prison, mostly as a result of war, I have had to 
face in a way that I never could do in college, the significance of 
suffering in life. 

Of course, during college days, one of necessity has his mind on 
what he is going to do in life. Three courses seemed available to 
me: teaching, farming, and the ministry. I cannot claim that a voice 
from heaven directed me, and I cannot say why, but I chose the 
ministry. It was partly because two ministers of great skill and of fine 
character crossed my path: Ellison R. Purdy, who was minister at 

io Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

the Quaker Meeting at Oskaloosa, Iowa, while I was in college there, 
and Charles M. Woodman, who visited our community during my 
college career and spoke very much to my condition. Both of these 
men were parish ministers, and the kind of men they were as well 
as their facility in expression, I am sure, affected my choice a good 
deal. In all honesty, it perhaps ought to be said that the fact that one 
could get a scholarship in a theological seminary, whereas such 
opportunities in other fields were not then as well known, may 
have had some influence. At any rate, I went to Hartford Theological 
Seminary for the next three years. I was just ripe for what Hartford 
had to offer. A warm fellowship of able, like minded men, who were 
much more sophisticated than I, and with whom I lived in the 
intimacy of dormitory life, stretched my spiritual horizon and expec 
tations enormously. And the discipline of a scholarship centered with 
great rigor on church history, theology, and the text of the sacred 
scriptures, while difficult for me, was most rewarding. It was during 
my time in the seminary that Dr. William Douglas McKenzie, the 
president of the seminary, published his book, The Final Faith. In 
that volume, this huge, stalwart, Christian theologian sought to prove 
that Christianity was the one, only, and final faith. I had never been 
dealt with quite on that scholarly basis, and it was excellent disci 
pline. Since then I have come to know many great spirits whose 
dogma was less emphatic but whose grasp of the reality of the 
spiritual life has led me further than any dogma, however clearly 
reasoned. I now find The Final Faith an inward experience much 
more than an outward confession. I find some of Dr. McKenzie's 
book very unsatisfying to me, but he did give me a good, strong 
anchor from which my mental and spiritual explorations could go 

I entered with zest into the parish ministry, first in Toronto in a 
Quaker Meeting and later at the Meeting which was attended by 
large numbers of the students at Penn College in Oskaloosa, Iowa. 
In both cases, my ambition was to work myself out of a job. It 
seemed to me that the recovery of a general sense of responsibility 
for the conduct of the Meeting by the total congregation was the goal 
that I ought to seek. I felt in Toronto that I made almost no progress 

Clarence E. Pic\ett n 

in that direction, but I am happy to say that over the years which 
succeeded my service there, this transition has taken place in that 
group o worshipers. For the most part, it seemed to me that the 
congregation tended to become more dependent upon the minister 
rather than less the longer I stayed with it, and that therefore my 
ambition was one that could never be realized. 

It was somewhat, perhaps, in this frame of mind that I welcomed 
the opportunity when I was invited to assume leadership in what 
was known then as the Young Friends' Movement across the country. 
For three years I worked with that organization, and then became 
professor of biblical literature at Earlham College. In both of these 
attempts, as well as in my parish ministry, viewing them in retrospect, 
the chief function that I served was to find out what were the 
yearnings in minds, in younger people especially, and to see if I 
could help in preparing them to fulfil their aspirations; also to help 
open channels of service where they could work at something to 
which they were dedicated and in which they were fully interested. 

It was in 1929 that I came to the American Friends Service Com 
mittee, and if I have accomplished anything in more than twenty 
years of service with this Committee, I think it is chiefly in helping to 
find ways in which younger and older people can give of themselves 
to the need of humanity, renewing and revitalizing their own faith 
in the process, and perhaps adding some strength to the healing 
current of the life of the spirit in the world. 

The life that I have led has ben an active one which fits in with 
my own temperament. Life, however, tended to deny me the oppor 
tunity for continued study and pursuit of scholarship, the value of 
which I know and yearn for. As a consequence, especially during 
these past twenty-two years that I have been associated with the 
American Friends Service Committee as its Executive Secretary, a 
great deal of what has come into my life has come through meeting 
with people, often people in distress. I recall vividly trying to speak to 
a group of men and women in Vienna in 1934. Many of them had 
been so deceived by their experience with religion that the use of the 
term, "God," even more of "Christ," was the most effective way to 
shut their ears and hearts to anything of that kind one might have 

12 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

to say. And yet, one knew that they deeply yearned for the stability 
to endure persecution, which came from some sure, inner belief. I 
learned then how terminology may defeat one's most longed for 
purpose to be helpful, but to try to give a talk which comes out of 
the depths of one's religious life and not use the word, "God, 55 or 
"Christ," or "Jesus," I found a real test. 

Then there was that talk with Rabbi Leo Baeck, Chief Rabbi of 
Berlin, in 1934. I had asked him what persecution was doing to the 
spiritual life of the Jew. He reminded me that his congregation was 
approximately ten times what it had been before. He had to hold 
two services on Saturday and two on Sunday to accommodate those 
who wished to worship, when fifty was a good sized congregation in 
the old days. They would sit for two hours and listen contentedly 
to the reading of psalms of consolation and to the liturgy of the 
synagogue, knowing full well that as they left the synagogue they 
might be stoned by fanatics among the Nazis. Later, in this country, 
when he told me of his four years' experience in Buchenwald, his 
attempts to keep people from losing their sense of significance as 
individuals by reminding them that they were not simply numbers 
but that they were persons and God's children and precious in His 
sight; how they would assemble in the corridors at night when the 
lights were all out and listen for an hour and a half to a lecture on 
theology or to a sermon: all of this made me realize that I was 
sitting at the feet of a saint who had discovered that man's extremity 
was truly God's opportunity. 

Many years later, talking in Jerusalem with Martin Buber, for 
merly of Frankfort, Germany, about the saints and scholars of 
Judaism, I was again in the presence of one who had discovered 
resources of life and spirit which resisted all external influence and 
made one radiant no matter what happened externally to his life. 

It was experiences like this that made me realize that there was a 
"final faith," as Dr. McKenzie had insisted in my seminary days, 
but that that "final faith" was not confined to people who had found 
it by accepting a given theological concept concerning Christ. 

There are people well versed in the art of theological thought and 
discussion who accuse the Society of Friends of ignoring evil. We, 

Clarence E. Pic^ett ij 

who are Quakers, often talk about "that of God in every man," a 
phrase used by our founder, George Fox. To some extent, the ac 
cusing finger of disregard of evil may be correct, but basically no, 
it is not an informed judgment. George Fox said, "I saw, also, that 
there was an ocean of darkness and death; but an infinite ocean of 
light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness." The fact 
that one emphasizes the ocean of light does not mean that he disre 
gards the ocean of death and darkness. It is the wisdom in the ancient 
Chinese proverb that "it is better to light a candle than to curse the 
darkness." This point of view is by no means inappropriate for con 
sideration today; forced labor camps, displaced persons, restriction 
of liberties, all these are sadly characteristic of many parts of the 
world. But when one simply contents himself with crying out against 
them, so often the result is that he devises schemes similar to those 
used by his opponents to defeat them in their own ends. To be spe 
cific, many people feel we must have a better intelligence and counter- 
intelligence system than those whom we dislike if we are to defeat 
them. Ours is not a denial that evil exists, it is asserting a triumphant 
confidence that evil can be overcome with good if one goes on a 
searching party to find that of God in men, even in those who may 
sanction, approve, and even enforce the machinery of torture. This 
viewpoint makes me tend in my own life, and in these more mature 
years, to respect but minimize the effectiveness of crusades to punish 
somebody for something; it deepens my confidence in the approach 
to any individual through whom evil is expressing itself, in an at 
tempt to see whether the ocean of light may not overwhelm the 
ocean of darkness. To see this accomplished, one often has to wait 
many years, he may have to work alone, he may be so fully mis 
understood that he will be thought a traitor to his country and to 
his religion; that has happened to Quakers over the years. But these 
things are incidental. The pathway to justice, right, and love leads 
often to a cross, suffering, and even death. The important question 
is, does one's life in some little extent redeem his fellows as well as 
himself from sin and failure ? In this respect, it would be possible for 
me to feel I have been a failure. One might well ask whether such 
religious convictions, if valid, should not already have brought peace 

14 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

to the world. I have seen one world war produce the seeds for a 
second world war, and many people feel that the second has pro 
duced the seeds for a third. But I do not feel that way. Central to the 
whole problem of existence is the way in which the cycle of evil can 
be broken. 

All too often a slight or hurt calls for retaliation which, in turn, 
must be met by doing injury to the one inflicting evil. Family feuds 
have been carried on in that way often for generations, and interna 
tional ethics frequently are conducted on this basis, too. The Treaty 
of Versailles, to illustrate, was never accepted by Germans as other 
than a settlement of revenge, and it was not difficult to incite Ger 
mans to avenge this wicked document when Hitler came to power. 
Is there any escape from this prison of evil provoking evil? Parents 
often know what it is to suffer because of the sins of children, and 
when that suffering is undertaken deliberately and intelligently to 
redeem the wayward child, experience shows a reassuring percentage 
of success. Relief operations carried on where possible to friend and 
foe alike have often gone far toward breaking the vicious cycle of 
ongoing evil. The extreme illustration would be Jesus yielding up 
his life rather than "call down legions of angels" for protection. For 
myself to have had some part in the healing ministry of relief, and 
to have seen hardness of heart yield to the simple ministry to body 
and spirit, leads me to the clear conviction that the power to over 
come evil lies in our hands. Our great difficulty is lack of confidence. 
Today we are assured that our security depends on force; but time, I 
feel sure, will show that true transformation will come only through 
the art of self -giving goodwill. This I believe to be not weak idealism 
but the only true realism. 


The justification for an autobiography o one's spiritual career is 
surely to try to be articulate about dominant motives, directions 
taken, and values one has sought to realize. Hopefully, such an ac 
count might throw light, not on success or failure, which no man 
can wisely gauge for himself, as on some central animating trend. 
For if there is any discernible trend, its meaning, its methods, and 
its outlook might conceivably help in being shared to hearten the 
efforts of others to chart a course and to set sail in hope and con 
fidence and faith. 

I propose to account for myself by some characterization of three 
periods one a period of orientation and getting established, which 
ended shortly after World War I; two, a period of established direc 
tions which rather artificially I break at the time of my appointment 
to the Board of Higher Education; and, three, the subsequent period 
of recent efforts. 

The major interests of my life were early and definitely set. My 
father was a Congregational minister who in theological matters 
was a thinly disguised Unitarian. In the whole latter part of his 
career, he worked professionally to promote the denominational col 
leges of the West, such as Carleton and Northland, and thus helped 
to extend Christian higher education. My mother was one of the early 


16 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

kindergartners who worked professionally in religious education at 
that age level. Throughout my childhood, she prepared the Bible 
lesson material widely used in "primary" Sunday schools; she was 
thus among the few women of that day who combined motherhood 
and a career, and took this as a matter of course. Since in later life 
my own wife has done the same, my outlook upon the woman prob 
lem in our society may be somewhat indicated. 

Our childhood home in an industrial, lower middle class suburb 
of Boston was relatively a cosmopolitan one, not only because parish 
callers were from all walks of life, but because there were occasional 
visiting foreign missionaries, often exotic, and other lecturers who 
carried us in imagination beyond the Main Street of that day. Also, 
the family library was a good one and I early learned to supplement it 
in Sam Walter Foss's excellent city public library. The Bible was 
read and reread; as it was also in college; and from the outset it was 
viewed in the light of "the higher criticism." I had comparatively 
little baggage of mid-nineteenth century theology to throw over 
board a great help in the long look. It was never necessary for me 
to become so aggressively "ami" about much of religious doctrine, 
as it seems to me has been true of some of my generation who came 
out of more "fundamentalist" backgrounds, and reacted against 
everything "religious" in a crusading and sometimes in an almost ob 
sessive spirit. 

My father was a tolerant man and my mother was a devout woman. 
And it was natural that she would have been the one to try "to pray 
me into the ministry." 

In the years just before going to Amherst College, I had already 
conducted boys' clubs in my own city and in a slum area of East 
Boston (where Albert Rhys Williams, later of national fame, was 
then ministering to an institutional church) . I was aware at first hand 
of a "social" and of an "industrial" problem. I knew vividly the 
social separations between Catholic and Protestant, between Jew and 
Gentile, between rich and poor, between native and foreign. And I 
had been profoundly and permanently influenced to a heightened 
awareness in these matters by three books on my father's shelves. 
These were Walter Raushenbush's Christianity and the Social Crisis; 

Qrdway Tead ij 

Francis Greenwood Peabody's Jesus Christ and the Social Question; 
and a volume by one Hudson, which I have since lost sight of, The 
Law of Psychic Phenomena. This last was important, not for where 
it arrived from a scholarly standpoint, but in its opening up of a 
psychological approach which supplied a point of view I have since 
pursued in wide ranging psychological study, which has yielded 
insights invaluable all along the way. My own first book, published 
in 1918, was, in fact, called Instincts in Industry. And it stemmed in 
directly from Hudson, with additions from college study, from 
friendship with Carleton H. Parker out from the West (whose pre 
mature death was a great loss to the social thinking of our day), and 
finally from my first hand "labor audit" researches within business 

The college years were incalculably rich in friendships with faculty 
and students, in eager and wide reading in and out of courses, fos 
tered by direct access to the stacks of the college library, in long walks 
in the beautiful surrounding countryside. I had edited the high school 
magazine; I edited for two years the college literary journal; and I 
have, from 1921, edited ever since! Indicative of what the college 
thinking has added are the titles of my two "orations" prepared for 
the commencement platform in accordance with the then prevalent 
practice of senior "prize contests." They were "The New Education" 
and "The New Religion." And although I have not scanned them 
for a dozen years, I have a strong impression that most of what was 
there set forth has been the platform which a whole career has been 
spent in trying further to articulate, to implement, and to refine. 

In the middle of senior year, I abandoned the idea of entering the 
ministry. And the reasons, however insufficient they may seem, were 
conclusive for me at that time. Nor have I ever felt the decision was 
unwise. The reasons were several. But most important, as I recall, 
was my sense of the "hypocrisy" of professing "Christians" in matters 
of race relations and economic relations. If their religion meant so 
little to them, surely it was a weak reed to lean upon! Notably, as I 
watched the relations of my "Christian" fellow students with the 
Jewish and Negro students on the campus, I was ashamed of their 
insensitive intolerance. And in the second place, as I studied the eco- 

i8 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

nomic operations of our society, I was sure there was a great gulf, 
between the "Christian" professions of industrial owners and man 
agers and the conduct of their relations with the rank and file of 
workers. Problems of poverty, of unemployment, of exploitation, of 
severe inequalities of income all this for me added up to an indict 
ment of a society which seemed to practice quite other than it preached 
and professed. 

I realize that other people's inadequacies offer no real excuse for 
not taking an even more vigorous stand for what one believes to be 
right. But there was further the sense that a paid ministry was in 
danger of being a kept ministry on issues in need of new and bold 
treatment. Finally, there was the theological aspect. For it seemed to 
me then, as it still does, that the church, except for the Society of 
Friends and a few other groups, carries an unnecessarily heavy super 
cargo of doctrinal baggage which would to good advantage have 
been thrown overboard a couple of generations ago. In short, I was 
determined to be as free as possible to explore and advance the prac 
tice of the second great commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neigh 
bor as thyself." I was clear that the world was not to be saved by "the 
foolishness of preaching." And I saw every reason why there might 
be a lay ministry consecrated to advancing fraternal regard among 
men, irrespective of creed, color, race, economic status, or social class. 
Indeed, it has been to the strengthening of that conviction and lay 
effort that increasingly over the years I have become committed. 

Perhaps this thus becomes the appropriate point to include a con 
viction which the years have not shaken. It has always seemed to me 
that the danger of professional religionists is in too sublime a faith 
in good intentions and in avowals of goodwill; whereas to an im 
portant degree in our day, the difficulties of the world, personal and 
social, spring from ignorance as to how in specific fact one is to act 
as a good neighbor. Acknowledging as I do, the place of selfish wil- 
fulness and of indifference in keeping people from being good neigh 
bors in a statesmanlike way, I still find the churches as such not 
insistent enough that the necessary social engineering and personal 
moral behavior both require profound, sustained, inventive, and in 
genious thinking by many individuals to guide neighborly sentiment 

Ordway Tead ip 

into actual neighborliness. Good intentions on the part o unaroused 
and conforming members of the religious associations of all affilia 
tions, are still accepted as moral behavior, to a degree that leaves little 
fighting edge required of the communicant. 

It still seems to me true that too few members of our religious 
bodies are asking themselves with any persistent and anguished pene 
tration : "How am I striving to apply my religious principles in my 
personal relations with others and in the multifarious relations of 
business and the community?" In short, the extent to which responsi 
ble good conduct has to be the fruit of reflective wisdom and 
scientific discovery, is still not widely enough appreciated. The 
controversy as to whether we are saved by "grace" or by "works" is 
old hat. We are saved by both, if they are properly defined. But also, 
and this is the emphatic moral mandate of the next half century, 
we are saved by using our minds the best available intellectual 
resources that each and every person can mobilize. There is a moral 
obligation to be intelligent. 

Nor is this emphasis on rational efforts, designed as it is to offset 
the saccharine sentimentality, the quiet desperation, or the smug 
complacency so rampant in our congregations, to be interpreted as 
any failure on my part to hold sin in view in its rightful place. I 
am clear that in any evolutionary or developmental view of human 
nature sin takes its place as a fact, along with the vestigial appendix 
and the impacted wisdom tooth, even though the remedies for these 
latter are of a somewhat different order from the remedy for the 
former! But I have never been one who needed Reinhold Niebuhr 
to remind me that sin is a reality; yet this is a view quite other than 
a belief in "original sin," which abstruse theological dogma I 
repudiate completely. 

All this explains why I did not enter the professional ministry. 
And the explorations of the early postwar years were guided by a 
sense of the urgent need for understanding how to be friendly and 
loving in a great society, and for discovering the interdependencies 
between improved social environments and improved personalities. 
In the year 1912, just where to turn to help with the clarifying and 
focusing of goodwill, was not readily determined. I felt the need for 

20 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

new channels of approach and for a fresh probing of the alleviative 
efforts which social analysis was then suggesting. Fortunately, my 
approach had no doctrinaire, or what we now call "ideological" slants, 
although like many in that period I was being influenced by an 
omnivorous reading of H. G. Wells, John Galsworthy, G. B. Shaw, 
Henrik Ibsen, G. Lowes Dickinson, the Webbs, Graham Wallas, 
William James, John Dewey, and others too numerous to mention. 

Hence when Robert A. Woods, an Amherst graduate who had in 
1891 founded South End House, a settlement in Boston, and who 
had provided an Amherst fellowship, offered me this fellowship, I 
accepted. I held it for two years, with an additional year as assistant 
head resident of the "men's residence." This post provided an 
excellent opportunity to survey the urban social scene in relation to 
my own capacities. Mr. Woods was one of the early exponents of the 
"neighborhood idea"; his sociological grasp of the urban problem was 
both comprehensive and profound. The inventive implementing 
of goodwill was dominant in his truly religious outlook. His greatness 
as a social pioneer I have always felt was generally unappreciated; 
and I account for this in part by his independence of thought and 
his consequent insistence upon approaches of research, methods, 
and social prescription, which were wholly unacademic in terms of 
the formalized sociology of that day. 

I like to believe that these three years laid a foundation for a 
social realism that has continued. No one can live in active participa 
tion in the life of an unskilled working class neighborhood for that 
length of time, and come away unmindful of the adverse con 
ditioning effects of slum environments, and also of the resilient 
capacity of individuals to emerge out of them into a better way of 
life. Extremes of doctrine about ^social conditioning are still to be 
encountered. There are the social and economic determinists for 
whom environing influences account for all. And there are those for 
whom the Horatio Alger pattern of American life still proves the 
unalloyed power of something called "rugged individualism," to 
allow those who will to go onward and upward indefinitely. Surely 
the truth about the interrelations of personal and social influences 
lies somewhere in between. 

Ordway Tead 21 

It was in the period of mounting unemployment in the winter 
of 1914-1915 that a voluntary Massachusetts Committee on Unem 
ployment was organized. Starting in a volunteer capacity, I presently 
become its paid secretary, a position held for about a year. This work 
led to close study into improved public employment offices and into 
the new English unemployment insurance, along with a publicizing 
of the practical efforts of a few advanced employers to "regularize" 
employment. But most importantly of all, the assignment led to a 
close working association with another formative and dynamic mind 
in the person of Robert G. Valentine, who was the chairman of this 
state body. He had in 1913 opened an office on State Street, bearing the 
novel designation, "Industrial Counsellor." The analogy to legal 
counsellor was intentional, in the sense that he held himself available 
to offer disinterested and objective advice to employers, labor unions, 
or whomever else, on matters of labor or industrial relations. This 
was, of course, a pioneering venture in a day when anything 
approaching a professional view of employer-employee dealings was 
unknown. Valentine brought to his newly created calling a healthy 
common sense, an analytical and inquisitive mind, a fund of humor, 
administrative experience as head of the United States Office of 
Indian Affairs under President Taft, and a wide acquaintance among 
his fellow Harvard graduates who were in influential positions in 
New England business. 

It was into a personal association with this truly brilliant and 
beloved consultant that I had the good fortune to enter as the un 
employment crisis lessened with the expansion of war production. 
Presently a partnership was formed and by virtue of being very much 
the junior, I gained invaluable grassroots experience in doing the 
factory field work and research interviewing, in order to make for 
a number of companies confidential reports on their plant labor 
conditions, to which studies Mr. Valentine had given the name, 
"labor audits." 

This rich and rewarding first hand contact with labor conditions 
and issues of various kinds continued on through the war. It brought 
us to New York. It took me to Washington during much of the 
period of World War I. Valentine died prematurely in 1916, but the 

22 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

seed of an idea had already been well sown; and the technical 
advances in methods of study and in the kinds of proposals to be 
recommended, had been built up empirically into a total approach of 
increasing coherence, practical value, and social idealism. 

It was with this background of experience in counselling with 
different kinds and sizes of corporations, that I undertook for the 
War Department in conjunction with Professor Henry C. Metcalf, 
then of the Department of Economics at Tufts College, the conduct 
of several War Emergency Employment Management Courses, under 
the auspices of Columbia University. We trained several hundred 
men and women for labor relations work in war plants. And it 
was the systematic and condensed lecture syllabi developed for this 
instruction which enabled Metcalf and myself to expand all this 
material, and issue in 1920 one of the first college texts in this field, 
Personnel Administration: Its Principles and Practice. This book has 
been twice brought up to date, and hopefully it has had a modicum of 
influence on the development of this new managerial function in the 
past twenty-five years. 


With the business recession of 1920-1921, the opportunities for 
labor consultation service diminished to a vanishing point. And the 
invitation of Martin M. Foss, the vigorous and astute president of the 
McGraw-Hill Book Company, to join his staff as Editor of Business 
Books, seemed both a timely offer and a logical way to extend one's 
influence, at least by indirection, upon the then amoral conduct of 
American business. 

Thus came a fairly well marked transition to the second period. 
I was now willing to work in and through corporate executive labors, 
as I had not previously elected to do. And from that day to this, 
I have played my part in that mythically important requirement of 
economic realism namely, in proving my ability to "meet a payroll." 

Even here, the claims of a more direct effort at spreading such 
understanding as might help to social and industrial melioration, 
were not to be denied. For a ten year period, I managed to find time 

Or d way Tcad 23 

in my publishing career to teach labor relations part time at the New 
York School of Social Work. And since 1921, 1 have each year valued 
the opportunity of conducting a two hour evening course at Colum 
bia University on the subject of personnel administration. Additional 
intensive summer courses were included during World War II; and 
the total of those to whom in these and various other institutions as 
well, I have tried to elucidate a point of view of liberal democratic 
principles as illuminating good labor management, must add up to 
several thousands. 

At the end of 1925, Harper & Brothers suggested a broadened 
editorial assignment, and early in 1926 I became "editor of social and 
economic books/' a position which I still hold. And it is not irrelevant 
to this account to point out that in this capacity, and under the 
sympathetic and generous encouragement of my colleagues, I have 
had some small part in adding to the definitive American literature 
on race relations, the cooperative movement, public housing, small 
community developments, labor relations, group dynamics, and newer 
trends in higher education. 


The year 1937, when I was appointed by Mayor La Guardia to 
the Board of Higher Education of New York City, may be used to 
demark the third and present period. And without further mention 
of other extracurricular activities in which I have indulged on a 
pro bono publico basis, I will only say that beyond my publishing 
activities, the major part of my spare time has in recent years been 
devoted in a trustee capacity to helping to guide the affairs of the 
four city colleges. 

The chairmanship of this Board has been at once an extraordinary 
opportunity and a demanding responsibility. It has been possible to 
bring all my experience in personnel administration and in classroom 
instruction to bear upon the multifarious problems of the four free 
municipal colleges comprising the top layers of our city's public 
school system. My conclusion out of all this is that there are four 
major assignments to be covered in this trustee functioning for which 

2$ Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

diverse talents are ideally needed. The first is to try to use all possible 
influence to have politically disinterested but educationally interested 
new members appointed to such a Board as vacancies occur. The 
second is the selection and full support of able and high minded presi 
dents. The third is the assurance to adequately paid faculties of a 
clear sense of freedom from political interference and encouragement 
to devoted teaching. And the fourth is success in securing adequate 
financial resources from the public treasury. 

Combined with this responsibility for large scale education has 
been an equally fascinating task of trusteeship of a small, two year 
women's college, Briarclijff Junior College, of which my wife has 
been president. The high degree of personalized attention possible 
to give to each student in a college of two hundred students and the 
beneficial results which are so obvious and gratifying, supply a 
constant challenge to the contriving of new techniques to help en 
hance the personal influence of teachers under conditions of "mass 
education" a corrective greatly needed, and one for which the public 
has still to be persuaded to pay the necessarily enlarged bill. 

If thus far this autobiographical delineation has been more objec 
tive than subjective, that is partly because I would like to think that 
actions speak more loudly than would a philosophical or theological 
discourse to which I can bring only the resources of unsystematic 
study, albeit deep and continuing concern. 

Also, retrospectively, it is difficult to bring vividly to mind the 
reasons for certain shifts of view. There was a period of at least fifteen 
years in which what is often referred to as "scientific humanism" or 
"anthropocentric humanism" seemed to me to account for all that 
needed to be accounted for about the whence and whither of man. I 
was content to let the rest of what William James called "overbelief s" 
remain the luxury of others whom I then regarded as more tender 

But two specific influences can be named which carried me beyond 
a non-theistic to a theistic view, although my theism will no doubt 
seem to some a highly attenuated version. Nor am I too concerned if 
I cannot pronounce with professional adequacy upon that which is 

Ordway Tead 25 

the ineffable and the unutterable in reality. W. MacNeill Dixon's 
poetic and noble utterance, The Human Situation, and the less 
technical writings of Alfred North Whitehead, are perhaps most 
responsible for my present basic faith and outlook. 

It seems to me now that a truly religious view of life involves 
acceptance of the belief that in some deep sense this is God's world. 
A Creator still creating, a Judge always rendering inescapable and 
righteous judgments, a Redeemer in the sense of having made it 
possible for the individual to be restored and reinstated into a positive 
relation to life's becoming these would seem to be profound and 
widely experienced realities. It is an unfinished world where the 
stake is preponderantly in human hands to play for, and the outcome 
is in doubt with an optimistic bias and "resonance" to hearten us as 
we strive. 

I find profound illumination in the sentiment that we do not 
asJ^ God's help, we only as\ that He be there. As the unfinished 
creative process and organic unfolding of human destiny go on, we 
ask only assurance that the struggle does avail and does yield forma 
tive and beneficent influences in the world. Man can really build 
if he will. A natural orderliness, a human lovingkindness, magna 
nimity, and humility, a reverence before the unknown, a profound 
groping for whatever things are true and lovely and righteous 
these attributes of nature and human nature represent the advancing 
and the unfolding phases of man's being. These qualities are in 
eradicable in man, and identify him as co-worker with the Source of 
all. The demonic and destructive phases are there, too, but the means 
to their sublimation and reduction are coming to be understood. 

The paradoxes inherent in the human situation are seen to be 
tolerable, if we will humbly accept contradiction as of the essence 
of the world, even though the human mind can but dimly compre 
hend it; for we see through a glass darkly. There are goodness and 
evil at work; there are beauty and ugliness to be beheld; there are 
mercy and hideous cruelty to be encountered; there are inertia, 
complacency, stupidity, perversity and there are vibrant strivings, 
divine discontents, noble tensions of mind and spirit, intimations of 
nobility, and saintliness of character. These all dwell together in the 

26 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

same world and in each human breast. I see no reason why our 
ambivalence of condition should lead us to cast reflection upon the 
Creator. We have enough of courage and determination, enough of 
knowledge of the ways to a kingdom of righteousness, to give us 
heart for the fray. 

The hurdles placed in the path of our aspiring effort are surely 
of man's own making. Entry into the Promised Land is not precluded 
by some perverse malevolence, but by human inadequacy. Faith and 
hope and love; intelligence and science and rational power these 
are the needful weapons, and they are human or they are nothing. 

We have a right to believe that at the heart of things is a predisposi 
tion toward support of the human best. Our human characteristic 
to find, to cherish, to realize values of excellence in the realms of 
truth, beauty, and goodness, is deeply the dominant characteristic, 
given a reasonable chance. 

But the necessary core of faith and hope is not the monopoly of 
any one institutionalized religious group. It is the monopoly of high 
religion. One is mindful of Schiller's statement that he believed in 
religion so much he could not believe in any of the different religions. 
Indeed, the institutionalizing of religious faith becomes so readily 
its undoing that "the scribes and the Pharisees" seem perennially to 
have overborne the prophets and the saviors. If the religion of tomor 
row has any one doctrine which can be foreseen, it is this : whatever 
belief divides men of fraternal goodwill into different religious folds 
is supercargo; and there is no irreparable loss when it is thrown 
overboard. Whatever in faith and hope and love ties and binds man 
to man across the barriers of sectarianism, of religion, color of skin, 
nation, race, economic status, or social and educational level that 
is the true. And no other is needed. We can and must adapt the 
words of the old hymn and say : 

Blessed be the ties that bind 
Our hearts in human love. 

It is a hopeful sign of our turbulent yet dynamic times that I can 
readily draw upon two recent dramatic successes to give summary 
suggestion of the two great strands of that appealing belief which 

Ordway lead 27 

today gain widened acceptance. You remember the moving and 
exciting line of the Angel Gabriel in The Green Pastures 

"Gangway for the Lord God Jehovah!" 1 

And the last line of Lost in the Stars, the dramatization of the 
novel, Cry, the Beloved Country, said by the white man to the 
Negro clergyman whose son has murdered the white man's son, is: 

"Let us be neighbors; let us be friends!" 2 

It seems to me additionally that the support which the insights 
of the heart get from those of the head increase in penetration and in 
volume almost daily. The warfare of science and religion has given 
way to reconciliation in which we recognize we are striving both to 
think God's thoughts after Him and to realize that those thoughts 
are of brotherliness, cooperation, and community among men, as the 
price of sheer survival. So fully is this true, that the ways to freedom 
and abundance, on the one hand, and to contemplative insight and 
the iron will of an ascetic, non-violent, eager cooperation, on the 
other, are seen to be the ways of scientific mastery. The ways of moral 
behavior, in short, are marked and they are built by scientific grasp 
and that not by scientists alone, but by all of us as we become 
equipped to apply in action the knowledge required to act in God 
like ways. 

It is to this approach and outlook that the revelations of the 
religion of tomorrow are coming. It is in such humble striving that 
man will transcend himself, and share a divine life that is super 
human but is not supernatural. And this is true for the good reason 
that at long last the natural is realized to be divine, even if not in 
complete fullness of disclosure. 

Two final points should be made. The first is that in the transitional 
age which is ours the place of institutional religions, as I felt even 
in my youthful period, is critical and precarious. Do they attempt 
to be exclusive or inclusive? Do they cling to overbeliefs and not 
center heartily on essentials ? Do they continue parochial, schismatic, 

^Marc Connelly, The Green Pastures, Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., New York, 1930. 
2 Maxwell Anderson, Lost in the Stars, William Sloane Associates, New York, 

28 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

and doctrinal? Or do they strive to use the universal, unifying, 
scientifically reinforced, supports of human fraternity? 

In short, for what do the organized religions propose to stand? 

The answer to this question is not in encyclicals, or the equivalent, 
from any official religious bodies. The answer is in the conduct and 
the conviction of the communicants. And the answer, let us confess, 
hangs in the balance. Progress here is possible; it is not inevitable. 

The other point which is the summation of my span of experience, 
is that in the necessary, economic functionings of our society, morality 
and fraternity will have to become regnant by the efforts of men 
or we will remain immoral, anarchistic, autocratic which all mean 
irreligious, in the underpinnings of our common life. I know the 
pervasive role for good or ill of administration, management, and 
supervision in the organized institutional life of our day. Everyone 
who works has the moral quality of his living conditioned by the 
terms and relations of his employment. This is true in the kitchen 
and nursery as it is in a General Motors factory. We can redeem our 
working life from spiritual destruction, only as the work relations 
rise above the wage relations, and above the compulsions of monoto 
nous, master-and-servant status. The scope for the creative impulse at 
work, the use of work as the medium of the productive and creative 
relation of the individual to his society, a status of cooperative 
partnership these have to be clarified and restored, if salvation 
through living is to be a fact. 

Organic to the creative expression of all people at work there have 
to be the occasions for autonomous, collective, democratic expression 
about work and its governance. Indigenous in social redemption is 
the use of administration as a fine democratic art, and of voluntary, 
organized, intergroup cooperative dealings as the way to productive 
group responsibility. 

There are several words into which, if the proper overtones of 
connotation are read, we find the key to the moral responsibilities 
which modern life entails for mature persons. These words, into 
which as my career has proceeded, I have tried operationally to read 
significant moral and religious meanings, are administration and 
management in all kinds of group organizations as expressions of 

Ordway Tead 29 

moral responsibility; the social uses of science as guiding to a. grasp 
and use of natural law and nature's resources; the wise applications 
of a law of love as the solvent of all human relations; the evocation 
of democracy to protect personal integrity and to invite the sharing of 
communal responsibility by every intelligent person; the assurance 
of enough general education to enable every individual to function 
socially at his most productive best, both in inner spiritual bounty 
and outer social creativity; the incitement of sufficient high religion 
to fortify more and more persons to commit themselves to lifelong 
projects of service to the Great Community which hopefully be 
comes the Kingdom of God. 

My autobiography of the spirit is intertwined with the effort to 
bring practical and humane meanings to these words "administra 
tion," "science," "love/' "democracy," "education," and "high reli 

The projection of these essential human activities upon a level of 
performance where their common direction and divine intention 
are grasped this seems to me to define a personal assignment one 
may be proud to share. And this kind of assignment can be shared 
with influences known and unknown in us all and about us. What 
more can we ask than some mysterious sense of fellowship with a 
Power that places us here and charges us "to press with vigor on" ? 


I ask the privilege of an ultimate word, because as I read this 
record the omissions seem so grave as somewhat to distort the portrait. 

For I find I have made no reference to the importance of beauty 
through the arts and in nature. I have not stressed the value of non 
violence and loving resistance as an aid to peace. Nor have I acknowl 
edged the importance of creative silence and meditation. The problem 
of the role of women has always concerned me as affecting men, 
as well as themselves. I have not elaborated upon the needful effort 
for the East and the West to come closer in understanding and 
integrated views. 

There should be some further comment on the good and bad in the 

jo Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

compulsions to activism as urban life requires it, and on the potency 
of pacifism when it is aggressively used. Gandhi is to be recognized 
as one of the greatest prophets of recent generations. 

There should be something said about immortality; but I do 
not know what to say. The familiar phrase about "immortality of 
personal influence'' accounts for all I can presently grasp on this 

As to the other spiritual concerns which I would mention, my 
comments run to the acknowledgment of opposites. Even absolute 
truths come into the arena of wise action, only as one realizes "that 
it is all a matter of degree." I believe, for example, in the value of 
a personal attitude which I may call triumphant dedication. The 
kind of consecration the scientist has toward truth seeking is needed 
by us all toward the good life. Yet I do not forget the wisdom of the 
Socratic injunction, "nothing in excess." 

The dedicated life is the wise, happy, productive life. Yet I cannot 
ignore the thought which Christopher Morley once voiced, "It is 
all very well to wear a crown of thorns, indeed every sensitive person 
carries one in his heart. But there are times when it ought to be 
worn cocked over one ear." 

I believe in the values of gracious living; but I believe, too, in 
holding to simplicity in one's demands upon life, in so far as posses 
sions are concerned. The exception here is a good personal library 
which seems well nigh indispensable for intellectual and spiritual 

I believe, too, in the virtue attainable only in living close to the soil 
(at least periodically) ; yet I am actually not competent on the land, 

I believe in the virtue of families of several children; yet I have 
only one child. 

I know the values possible in austere, reflective withdrawal; but I 
am plunged too fully into the maelstrom of events. 

If all this adds up to the truth, there is a basic dialectic in striving 
to live creatively, that indeed seems to be of the essence of the Truth 
in which we have our being. 


This story is no spiritual Odyssey. The case of a man half of 
Puritan and half of Lowland Scots stock, with a strong natural bent 
for mathematics, and thoroughly exposed to physics as it has advanced 
from the discovery of X-rays till now, is more likely to appear as 
an illustration of predestination. 

But some description of the belief of so hardboiled an individual 
may be in order, especially as I am convinced that the general 
philosophy of modern physics may make valuable contributions 
toward the resolution of some old theological difficulties, and even 
more important ones toward the practical adjustment of our re 
maining differences, in effective cooperation. 

Family tradition was strong, especially the Old Colony Puritan on 
my mother's side. A remote grandfather schoolmaster in Salem is 
on record as having "opposed the witchcraft delusion." Two ancestors 
of later date were ousted from the Society of Friends (quite properly) 
for participation in Arnold's expedition to Quebec in 1775. My 
great-grandfather, a Salem skipper, died of yellow fever on his own 
ship in the West Indies. His son declined an offer from a relative of a 
job in a distillery, and started on his own in New York. He became 
interested in the rubber business, married a descendant of the militant 
Quakers, spent ten years in Brazil (where my mother was born) and 
eight in Edinburgh (where she received much of her education). 

52 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

He was a strong anti-slavery man and his wife's father a militant 

My father's grandfather, according to family tradition was a weaver 
in the days of home industry, and an elder in the Kirk. Of older tra 
dition on this side I know nothing but there is no suggestion that 
it was Jacobite. 

Steam machinery ruined him, and he died in debt. His children 
worked hard and paid it off. Then my grandfather married and 
emigrated to Nova Scotia, serving as a school teacher, and later as a 
Presbyterian minister. My father taught school, worked his way 
through college in Halifax, and studied for the ministry in Princeton, 
and met my mother there. 

He settled down in a country village on Long Island and died as 
pastor of his first charge, thirty-three years later. 

This is a highly homogeneous background, but it was not obscur 
antist. From Edinburgh comes a saying picked up by my uncle, a 
student of Lister's, "No one ever died a triumphant death of trouble 
below the diaphragm." My father was one of the small group of 
country parsons who started the movement which led to the revision 
of the Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church, which re 
moved so much polemic sixteenth century phraseology; and Andrew 
White's History of the Warfare of Science and Theology was in his 
library. He spent most of his time in pastoral work, and his relations 
with the other village churches and their ministers were always 
cordial. My brothers and I did not have to memorize the Shorter 
Catechism; but my mother had a remarkable gift for connecting her 
rules for everyday behavior with the Ten Commandments by argu 
ments which stand up very well as I recall them in later life. The 
emphasis was even more on moral principle than on religious obliga 

Reformation principles were postulated rather than argued: but 
later denominational controversies were rarely mentioned. Indeed, 
personal criticism of neighbors or acquaintances was definitely dis 
couraged in the family circle. Abstract principle and the diplomacy 
necessary for a small town minister were both responsible. 

I "joined" my father's church at fifteen, after some tribulation, 

Henry Norris Russell 33 

(vide Pilgrim's Progress), which might have been spared except for 
Victorian reticence on my part. 

School and college life in Princeton at the end of the past century 
fitted well with a simple evangelical belief. Most of the faculty were 
church members. One able chemist was sometimes described in 
private as "the agnostic." Neither he nor his orthodox colleagues 
attempted any proselytizing in connection with their teaching. That 
day had long passed. Chapel attendance was still compulsory by a 
century old tradition. 

Undergraduate religious life expressed itself in class prayer meet 
ings on Sunday evenings before church, and in Sunday school 
teaching in the town churches (I remember being taught, when a 
boy, by a prominent football player) . I recall very little of that active 
participation in social work which is so important in these days, but 
lack of interest was far from being the only reason. Commonplaces 
of our time, such as operating a summer camp for city boys, or 
conducting a boys' club at the State Reformatory fifteen miles away, 
were physically impossible in those earless days; and social welfare 
work in the then small town was well taken care of by permanent 

College life was democratic. The man who earned his way suffered 
no social limitation. The rich man might perhaps have kept a riding 
horse (no one did) . 

Looking back, it seems the happiest of ivory towers. We knew that 
soon we must do our bit in the world outside, and most of us did. 
Meanwhile we had a good fellowship of our own, were happy, and 
knew it. O fortunati nimiuml 

The intellectual training was thorough and good, for those who 
worked. After receiving my bachelor's and doctor's degrees there I 
went to Cambridge in the great days of J. J. Thomson, and found 
myself adequately prepared. 

I did not earn my own way, even in part. Legacies to my mother 
from her parents had made our economic position fairly comfortable, 
at least with the careful spending which came by tradition from the 
New England housewives who "feared dirt, debt, and the Devil, 
and nothing else." 

J4 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

In my case this was a boon. I have always been a bit like Lincoln's 
steamboat "with a four foot boiler and a six foot whistle." I spent all 
the strength I had on my work and in 1900, with my new Ph.D., I 
had to take two years off to rest. I shall never forget how my father 
said "Henry, remember that you have a home" and I came home. 
The money accumulated from my postgraduate fellowships was kept 
intact to finance my study abroad according to the original plan. 

Had this breakdown come later, when I had given hostages to 
fortune, it would have meant disaster. At this time, it saved me, for 
it taught me to watch the boiler pressure as well as the whistle cord. 

One more thing was fortunate. My father's country church hap 
pened to be in Oyster Bay, which at the turn of the century was far 
from being out of the world. Some of the city people who summered 
there were his parishioners, and many more our friends. Their friend 
ships have been a major factor in my life indeed, it was at the 
house of one of them that I first met my wife, more than fifty years 

Theodore Roosevelt was naturally my hero and still is so, for he 
was the last Puritan. His power over the American people was based 
largely on arousing conviction of sin not on inspiring hopes of a 
"brave new world," but on convincing them, by wholesale, that we 
ought to be ashamed of ourselves for having tolerated this or that 
specific evil so long, and must clean it up at once. As one of those 
who believe that our consciences, despite their limitations, are better 
guides than our hopes, I long for the next Puritan. 

Yet it is tragic to recall how, between forty and fifty years ago, 
radical and conservative alike would have accepted Roosevelt's say 
ing, "Our task in the future must be to shackle cunning as in the 
past we have shackled force." How blind we were! 

Cambridge was my introduction to the greater world. Since I first 
settled down there, England has never been a foreign land to me. The 
unvarying courtesy and kindness which I received from everyone, 
in my college (King's), from my teachers, and from a growing circle 
of friends, made this automatic. 

Professionally, my life was an expansion of previous experience; 
but I came to know, for the first time, people Anglo-Catholics, 

Henry JN orris Kussell 35 

Agnostics, Tories, and so on of a wide variety of beliefs with which 
I had previously had little acquaintance. They were obviously such 
fine people, in character as well as culture, that any sense of superior 
personal background would have been absurd. 

The question, "how they did it," was gradually cleared up as 
friendship with them progressed and the foundation was laid for the 
convictions, clarified and strengthened by later developments in 
physical science, of which I shall speak in due time. 

After a year at Cambridge I received a grant from the Carnegie 
Institution for some work on stellar parallax, which had been strongly 
supported by my friend Arthur Hinks, Chief Assistant at the 
Observatory. This demanded observations on every clear night, just 
after dark and before dawn. No lodgings were available within a 
mile of the observatory. Just at this juncture, my mother died the 
severest personal blow which has yet befallen me. 

The Hinkses promptly invited me to live with them for a year 
nominally as a paying guest, actually as one of the family. If I made 
any return to them, it was by waking myself with an alarm clock 
every morning without ever once waking the baby! 

As I review a longish life, I am overwhelmed with the number of 
deeds of pure goodness which have been done to me, and this was 
one of the chief. 

Returning to America in 1905, 1 began my forty-two years' service 
at Princeton. The professional part of this is outside the present 
story: but some things should find place in a "spiritual autobiog 

I married in 1908 an Episcopalian of New England stock, with a 
Huguenot strain far back, and later Baptist and Unitarian forebears, 
and reared at St. George's in New York a pioneer "institutional 
church." We found each other attached to our own churches, though 
with no convictions of the essential superiority of either, and followed 
the simple plan of attending both alternately, though not mechani 
cally. Christmas and Easter found us at Trinity Church, and Thanks 
giving at the Presbyterian. Our children later attended with us as a 
united family. For more than forty years we have been received in 
complete Christian fellowship in both churches, under five successive 

j6 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

rectors in one and three ministers in the other, and each of us is 
entirely at home in both. Two of our children, on reaching "years 
of discretion," sought membership in one, and two in the other. 

This practical experience of Christian unity has been a notable 
spiritual gain; not least is the advantage of acquaintance with the 
methods and the benefits of the various forms of religious serv 
ices. There are, for example, three main traditions of Christian wor 
ship in this country the liturgical, the reformed, and the evangelical. 
All, at their best, are noble approaches of the soul toward God, and I 
am convinced that one is a better Christian if he can join reverently, 
devoutly, and sympathetically in any one of them as he finds it, with 
out too much distraction by genuflections, coldness of architecture, 
or the musical limitations of Gospel hymns. 

I regret deeply that small town residence has deprived me of the 
privilege of equal acquaintance with Jewish worship. 

Other experiences, too, have convinced us that, in the matter of 
religious fellowship "the best way to resume is to resume." We spent 
several happy summers in the 1920'$ on Clark's Island near Plymouth 
(where the Pilgrims "rested on the Sabbath day" before they landed 
on the Rock) . There were thirty or forty people there in summer. We 
all went ashore in our own boats for supplies; but regular church 
going (with big tides in a shallow harbor) was out of the question. 
We started reading Morning Prayer for ourselves the first Sunday; 
some friends heard of it and asked to come and in a few weeks our 
simple services were attended regularly by a dozen people, ranging in 
ecclesiastical connections from Unitarian to Roman Catholic. This 
continued for seven summers. 

We always ended by singing Leonard Bacon's hymn, 

O God, beneath Thy guiding hand 

Our exiled fathers crossed the sea 

And when they trod the wintry strand 

With prayer and psalm they worshipped Thee. 

Most of us were "descendants" and we were in the authentic place; 
but that was far from the whole story. People welcome a chance to 
share in simple worship if they can get it. 

Henry Norrzs Russell 57 

In the same decade, a group of faculty members at Princeton 
organized a series of Sunday evening talks upon various relations 
between religion and science or philosophy. These were held in 
university lecture rooms we needed the larger ones and, while 
definitely Christian in outlook, were deliberately kept on the intellec 
tual side and clear of evangelistic appeal. I had a good deal to do 
with this, and was much impressed with the cooperation which we 
received from colleagues of greater or less unorthodoxy, and some 
times no church connection. I recall a conversation with one who 
met my first suggestion with, "My dear chap, I could no more do 
that than beat the big drum for the Salvation Army." I replied, "I 
haven't made clear what we are after. We want one of these talks 
to be a discussion from the intellectual side of the metaphysical aspect 
of religion, and nobody here can do that like you." It was a masterly 
talk. The last of these series was a discussion on "Evolution and the 
Bible," the speakers being the heads of the department of Old 
Testament literature in Princeton Theological Seminary and of the 
department of biology in the University. Both were eminent scholars 
in their fields hence, naturally the two addresses showed practically 
complete agreement. There was no arrangement in advance to keep 
off contentious matters the only stage management came when Dr. 
Davis asked me "Are you inviting me as a clergyman?" "No, as a 
Hebrew scholar." "Then I'll wear a colored tie." If we had only 
thought of having a stenographer, these admirable talks would have 
been available to far more than the eight hundred who heard 

The most valuable comment on my own talk came from an old 
friend of approximately zero orthodoxy. "Then, at the end, you 
stuck your head down and said something that I suppose was a 
prayer; but I didn't hear it." 

There is little more in the way of history. Some ten years ago I 
was asked to become an elder in my church and accepted when an 
old friend, professor iii Princeton Seminary, told me after a long 
talk, "I couldn't conscientiously recommend you as a professor in 
this Seminary, but I see no objection to you becoming an elder." 
Incidentally, I told my pastor "I would wish to keep on going to 

38 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

Trinity Church about half the time," and he answered "That's one 
of the reasons why we asked you." 


More valuable than further details of a happy and rather sheltered 
life may be some account of the religious convictions to which fifty 
years' experience has led me. 

First must come the effects of the radical changes in the conceptions 
of physical reality. It was fully recognized, long before 1900, that 
most of the familiar "physical" properties of matter, such as pressure, 
temperature, and elasticity, are highly simplified mathematical images 
which describe the behavior of exceedingly complex aggregates. 
There is "really" no such thing in nature as a continuous elastic 
solid or a pressure exerted uniformly over every minute area of a 
surface. But these "statistical properties" represent the behavior of the 
actual aggregates so closely, over a wide range, that our daily life 
can be based on them with complete security. When the number of 
particles involved diminishes for example, when gas is exhausted 
from a tube the accuracy of the statistical images gradually falls 
off one part in a million, in a thousand till they become use 

Until some twenty years ago it was generally hoped that the 
properties of the ultimate units of which matter consists might in 
time be definitely determined. But this hope was shattered by the 
"uncertainty principle" better named by Born the Principle of 
Limited Measurability. There is a vast mass of evidence indicating 
that all the fundamental physical quantities (such as electric charge 
and radiant energy) occur only in definite units, or quanta. All these 
quanta are, so to speak, of the same degree of fineness they corre 
spond to the same "level" of structure. We have a great and in 
creasing store of knowledge as to what happens when a quantum of 
radiation is emitted or absorbed by an atom, when an electron is 
knocked out of it or returned, and even of the more complex changes 
which may occur in its nucleus. But what happens inside an atom 
while nothing enters it or leaves it, we cannot find out. Still less can 

Henry Norris Russell 39 

we hope to discover whether the properties of electrons and other 
fundamental particles arise from some finer grained structure within 

The hope that "something will turn up" to give an answer, is 
at present mere wishful thinking. We face the Veil of Isis, and can 
not lift it. As Sir James Jeans puts it, "in physics we are not in touch 
with ultimate reality." His masterly argument 1 that the time has 
passed for supposing that the old mechanistic images represent reality, 
and his caution against assuming that our present abstract mathemat 
ical images do so, still hold good. But, nevertheless, physics is doing 
very well. Our present images and theories are not ultimate, but they 
are reliable, to a high and specifiable degree, over specifiable ranges 
of phenomena, and our continual efforts to make them still better are 

Here is the place to introduce an analogy with theology and to 
begin with a caution. There has been a vast increase in our knowledge 
of physical phenomena during the past century. No one would main 
tain that there has been anything like as great an increase in our 
knowledge of the phenomena of religious experience. This is nothing 
against religion: it is the extraordinary advance in physics that is 
historically exceptional. Hence it is unreasonable to expect such rapid 
and radical changes in theological theory or religious practice. More 
over, we are dealing with a very different discipline, and must be on 
our guard against hasty translocation of conclusions, or even of 
methods. Nonetheless, I believe that physics can make useful con 
tributions to theology. 

Probably the most important contribution which physical science 
has made to the general progress of thought has been the repeated 
forcible expansion of the imagination. Time and again, we have 
found that ancient concepts which accounted satisfactorily for 
ordinary experience, and had come to be regarded as matters of com 
mon sense, if not as self-evident truths, were too simple to represent 
the phenomena of nature and had to be replaced by more complex 
concepts sometimes bizarre at first sight. What bothered us most 

1 In the last chapter of The Mysterious Universe, The Cambridge University Press, 
New York, 1932. 

40 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

the first few times was that the changes were made in what we had 
come to regard as the fundamental philosophy of the subject. (For 
example, relativity forced us to give up belief in absolute simulta 
neity.) Now we have learned to worry less about our preconceived 

I believe that there are cases in which the same principle may 
profitably be applied in the theory of religion. I may take an example 
from Christian theology namely, certain details of the Trinitarian 
creeds adopted in the fifth and sixth centuries. It would be presump 
tuous of me to attempt to discuss the central issues. Suffice it for the 
present purpose that creeds were prepared by councils of devout men, 
formulating logically what they were convinced were the general 
beliefs of Christians. Now these were able men indeed it is precisely 
of them that Walter Lippmann has said that it is a very poor policy 
to assume that the best minds of another generation were congenitally 
inferior to our own. In their solemn conclusions they affirm that the 
Persons of the Trinity are exactly equal in many expressly described 
characteristics, to an extent that not only raises questions by the 
human reason as to how the Babe of Bethlehem could be omnipresent, 
but is difficult to reconcile with sayings of Jesus reported in the 
Gospels e.g., "My Father is greater than I." These are elementary 
arguments, and must have been clearly realized by the Church 
Fathers. Are we justified in concluding that they were, after all, 
intellectually inferior? By no means. They were experts in the 
Greek philosophy of their age. I believe that their reasoning, put in 
my own words, ran something like this: "The Infinite is perfect. No 
part can be taken from it without introducing imperfection. Hence 
no one Person of the Trinity can lack any characteristic that another 

Now this is a proposition not of religion, but of philosophy con 
cerning infinity and in this matter we can fairly claim to know 
more than our fathers since the work of Cantor and others on 
transfmite numbers. 

Putting the relevant results of a thoroughly tested theory as simply 
as possible: 

i. Two assemblages of units are equal in number, if the elements 

Henry Norris Russell 41 

of which they are composed can be matched, one to one, both ways, 
leaving none over. 

2. If, however the matching is done, some elements of A remain 
when those of B are exhausted, A is greater than B. 

For finite assemblages it follows that the whole is greater than its 
part. But, for infinite, unending assemblages, this is not true. 

The two sequences 

i, 2, 3, 4, 5, 

100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 

both without end, are in an obvious "one-to-one correspondence" 
and the numbers in the two are equal by definition. 2 Yet the second 
is obtained by removing ninety-nine elements from the first for 
every one which is retained; and is a part of it! Hence, among 
infinite numbers the whole may be equal to its part. 

Further precise study shows that this is, in fact, the distinctive 
property of an infinite number, by which it differs from all finite 

The mathematical properties of infinite numbers do not prove 
anything regarding the nature of a transcendent God: but we may 
well be chary about applying a proposition of human philosophy in 
the greater case when it fails in the lesser; and so the apparent con 
flict between Christian doctrine and the text of the Gospels disap 

The devout belief of many Christians that the authors of these 
creeds were divinely inspired to pronounce the truth, need not be 
affected, so far as I can see, by this view. The council was comprised 
of men; its conclusions were necessarily phrased in human language, 
and stated in terms of human philosophy. The belief that, within 
these inevitable limits, they were the best possible, is surely a belief 
in their inspiration. 

My position is relativist rather than absolutista physicist can take 
no other. One who holds it must admit his certainty that the views 
to which he and his associates may come will, at most, have their day, 
short or long, and be replaced probably by something more com- 

^2 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

plicated; and his uncertainty whether any particular view of his will 
survive impartial criticism at all. 

But, to go deeper, one may believe as I do that man was created 
"to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever/' whether he accepts or 
rejects the view that man was created capable of attaining an absolute 
knowledge of God or of anything else. Such differences in the realm 
of abstract thought need not weaken our sympathy with other be 
lievers in God, nor interfere at all with our fellowship with them. 

We meet with mysteries, too, on the physical side if a mystery 
means a situation in which reasoning based on evidence in one part 
of the field leads to conclusions which appear to be irreconcilable 
with those derived from another part of it. These "incompletely 
understood phenomena" as we call them are often strange enough : 
for example, the behavior of an electron can usually be represented by 
the image of a charged particle, but under some circumstances it 
behaves like a train of waves. 

By a tour de force of mathematical imagination a theory has been 
developed whose consequences include both: but only the elect few 
(of whom I am not one) would dare to try to explain this; and a 
completely satisfactory formal theory of the electron has not yet been 
attained. But we do not have to wait for such a theory to use effec 
tively the knowledge that we have. Within a specifiable range, the 
particle-image represents the facts satisfactorily; within another 
range, the wave-image does so; and both images have been success 
fully applied to practical problems. The tubes in a radio set work 
on the first, the electron microscope on the second. 

May not these things be an allegory? The theologian works in at 
least as difficult a field as the physicist. He has no laboratory, and no 
business whatever to conduct experiments upon human souls. If he 
has to acknowledge that he is faced with incompletely understood 
phenomena, and calls them by the classic name of mysteries, no one 
may think the less of him. 

It is hard enough to form even a tolerable working image of God. 
Our relations with one another may be surprisingly well expressed 
in terms of the ancient image of persons, possessing at least some 
degree of intelligence, self-determination and purpose. And our 

Henry Norris Russell 43 

relation with the Power behind the universe may reasonably be 
expressed by supposing Him to be a personal being even though we 

must use a speech so poor 

It narrows the Supreme with sex. 3 

To confine our images of that Power to those which belong to the 
"lower" mechanistic or quantized levels, appears to me to be an 
arbitrary exclusion certainly so long as we cannot successfully do the 
same thing for one another. 

But, are God's relations to the universe as a whole, or even to that 
part of which we know something, expressible by the use of even the 
most august personal image that we can devise? This is quite another 
question, involving that most perplexing of mysteries, the problem of 

Personally, I find it very hard to use the word, "God," to describe 
a personal being Who is not in complete control of the universe. I 
am more willing to believe that a perfectly wise and good God, for 
reasons known to Himself (though to us unknown and possibly 
unknowable), has designed the universe in such a way that our race, 
on our planet, in our times, is in its present appalling situation, than 
to accept the alternative that these horrible things and people are 
outside His control. The first is a venture of faith; the second of 

The venture of faith must be bold. As Donald Hankey wrote from 
the trenches, "religion consists in betting your life that there is a 
God." 4 But the sharp theological antinomy that faced our fathers 
loses its edge if one admits, as I do, that our best intellectual images of 
God may not be, and probably are not, absolute and ultimate. 

The vital thing is to use that image which is trustworthy and valid 
within the range with which we are dealing. So the old saying, 
"Every parson must be an Arminian when he preaches and a Cal- 
vinist when he prays," leaves him as consistent as any physicist. 

But we should be on our guard against artificial mysteries. The 

3 William Watson, "The Unknown God," The World's Great Religious Poetry, 
edited by Caroline Miles Hill, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1938. 

4 Donald Hankey, A Student in Arms, E. P. Dutton & Company, New York, 1917, 
p. 190. 

44 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

finest example I know comes from classical nineteenth century 

The differential equations which describe the propagation of waves 
of light in transparent media are identical in form with those de 
fining the internal vibrations of a continuous, perfectly elastic, 
incompressible solid. The latter had been well worked out, and were 
very well known to the mathematicians of the day. 

When a detailed theory of light-waves was developed, this analogy 
with the familiar was naturally greeted with joy. Light behaved just 
like vibrations of something. Hence it was assumed that there was 
something real the Ether whose vibrations constituted light. As 
the mathematical equations were the same, it was further assumed 
that the ether was an elastic solid. But the sun, planets, and stars 
move through space, leading to the conclusion: "All space is occupied 
by a continuous, incompressible, elastic solid, through which material 
bodies are moving with high velocities in all directions." 

This is the famed Elastic Solid Ether. Was any hypothesis ever 
stated which better deserved the famous "Credo quia absurdum"? 
I am old enough to recall my own bemuddlement about it. We still 
speak of the ether, but might be inclined to define it now as "that 
property of actual space in virtue of which electro-magnetic radiation 
satisfies certain specified differential equations." This definition puts 
the facts as well as the old one nay, much better, for with proper 
specification of the equations, it includes the effects of relativity. But 
the old almost unconscious a priori assumptions about what must be 
have vanished and with them the absurdity and the mystery. 

What theological propositions, if any, show elastic-solid character 
istics, I do not presume to suggest. But I am convinced that considera 
tion of these problems, with special attention to the elements of 
a priori philosophy involved in the reasoning, is likely at least to 
remove a good many minor difficulties. And, if we discuss these 
things with one another in the spirit that desires more to understand 
what the other man really believes than to prove him wrong, we will 
all be the wiser and better for it. 

It is not to be expected nor, as I see it, to be desired that we will 
end in some generalized complete agreement. But we will at least 

Henry Norris Russell 45 

understand what our friends of the various groups regard as matters 
of fundamental principle, and what as involving human logic and 

The former are of course far more difficult; but a great deal de 
pends on the spirit in which they are met. Take, for example, the 
differences regarding the validity of ordination, etc., which compli 
cate ecumenical conferences of Christians. Amid all the discussion 
of this, it is surprising that no reference has been made, so far as I 
have noticed, to a similar problem in the field of scholarship. 

The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge form a closed group 
with respect to the "validity" of academic degrees. They recognize 
one another's degrees and no others. A visitor from overseas, who has 
the good fortune to be invited to one of the great festival dinners at 
some college, at which "Scarlet and decorations" are in order, at 
tends in plain evening dress, though he may have received the highest 
earned or honorary degrees from Harvard or Goettingen, and be a 
foreign member of the Royal Society. 

What effect does this discrimination have upon the relations of 
English and foreign scholars? Exactly none and I know well 
whereof I speak. The fellowship of scholars is wholehearted, un 
broken, and complete, and the forms are regarded only as parts of an 
ancient tradition which all alike would hate to lose. 

The finest expression of the comprehensive spirit which I know is 
a century old, and the author was not a physicist, but a poet. If any 
one does not recall Browning's "Christmas Eve," I would earnestly 
recommend it for reading as near "this Christmas Eve of Forty-Nine" 
as may be. 

The breadth of its sympathy is superb, and the illustrations of 
varying religious viewpoints seem amazingly modern. The crude but 
sincere congregation of Zion Chapel, the devout multitude at the 
Christmas Mass in Saint Peter's, and the earnest critical auditors of 
the professor at Goettingen are all still with us, and with us, too, is 
the climax of the poet's vision. 

Did He not say that, to the end 

He would be there with them, their friend? 

Certainly He was there with them. 



In attempting to trace the stages and factors in the development of 
my present philosophy of life, I am well aware of its fragmentary 
nature and the probable defects of a subjective report. But I have tried 
to pick out the high points in this development and to describe it 
in as objective a manner as possible, as is generally required in sci 
ence, although subjective feelings and motives cannot be excluded 
from an autobiography as they are an important part of the record. 

Throughout my professional life I have been a student of animal 
development, and, while most of my studies have been directed to 
the development of the body, I have not failed to observe that the 
development of physical, mental, and moral qualities in man follow 
essentially similar patterns. Indeed, a human being is a single per 
son composed of many parts and functions, which are not divisible 
in real life. Physical, mental, and moral subdivisions of this individual 
do not represent separate personalities, but only different aspects of 
one non-divisible unity. 

All development, whether physical, mental, or moral, involves 
growth and differentiation of an inherited germinal organization 
into the more complex and more highly differentiated organization 
of the adult, with the addition of particular nutritive and hormonal 
substances and under the influence of many kinds of stimuli physical 
and social. In man and the higher animals physical development pre- 


4 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

cedes mental and social, and is therefore more immediately depend 
ent on initial heredity, whereas the later social and mental develop 
ment is more subject to environmental influences. Heredity cannot 
be changed except at its source, but environment can be modified or 
controlled along the whole course of development. In the attempt to 
influence or control development much more attention has been de 
voted to environment than to heredity, and this applies especially to 
the control of mental and social characteristics by means of education. 

From the biological point of view, education is in large part an 
attempt to establish certain "conditioned reflexes" or habits and to 
inhibit others. Such reflexes or habits are established by offering 
rewards or satisfactions for desired responses, and punishments or 
dissatisfactions for those that are not desired, until finally the de 
sired response becomes habitual. Education is thus in essence the de 
velopment of desired or good habits and the suppression of unde- 
sired or bad ones. This is generally overlooked or obscured in most 
educational procedures where lessons, lectures, laboratories, and ex 
aminations place almost all emphasis on the information acquired 
and little or none on the habits developed in the process. Such in 
formation is usually soon forgotten, but habits are more enduring. 
Indeed, it is my opinion, as a result of more than a half century of 
teaching, that the most lasting and important effects of education are 
the good habits that are established; and habitual methods of re 
sponding to conditions or stimuli constitute what is generally known 
as character. 1 

With these preliminary statements of the teachings of science with 
regard to the unitary nature of the individual and the principles of 
development and education, I turn to my own spiritual development 
and in so doing I shall interpret "spiritual" as including mental and 
moral, philosophical and religious aspects of my personality. I can 
not wholly isolate my spiritual development from the physical 
nature has not done that but I shall try to emphasize the former. 

1 Edwin G. Conklin, Heredity and Environment in the Development of Men, 
Princeton University Press, Princeton, 6th edition, 1939. 

Edwin Grant Contain 49 

Earliest Years 

My individual life began in the midst o the American Civil War 
and it is probable that the intellectual and social environment of 
those early years had some subconscious influence on my mental de 
velopment. On the eightieth anniversary of my birth my older daugh 
ter wrote me: "Four score years ago why Father, that sounds like the 
beginning of the Gettysburg Address." I had never thought of the 
date of my birth in relation to that address, but found on consulting 
history that Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg on the ipth of November, 
1863, and I was born just five days later. Now that I have passed my 
eighty-seventh year the exact words of that address, viz. "Four score 
and seven years ago," coincide more fully with my present age, and 
they remind us how recent the history of our nation is when meas 
ured by human lives, for only two rather long lifetimes take us back 
to 1776 and the Declaration of Independence. 

My earliest years were lived in two small villages in central Ohio 
Woodbury, Morrow County, and Waldo, Marion County, and on a 
farm near Delaware, Ohio. My father was a country physician, "a 
horse and buggy doctor," and a leading man in his community. 
Woodbury was a Quaker settlement and reputed to be a "station on 
the underground road to Canada." I recall stories about the escape of 
slaves by this route, also humorous comments about the protestants 
against the continuance of the war, "the copperheads," and their 
proposed overground march to Canada, which never materialized. 
The hysteria of those reconstruction days was illustrated by my 
father's story of the "Yankee Doodle Preacher," who shouted in a 
sermon, "I will never be satisfied, no never, until Jeff Davis is hanged 
from the dome of the Capitol in Washington and the wind has 
played 'Yankee Doodle' through his bones a hundred years!" 

A saving sense of humor helps to overcome such hysteria. Ab 
surdities are more vulnerable to ridicule than to argument. In these 
days of hypertension in Congressional committees and elsewhere 
over atomic secrets, spy scares, Communist propaganda, and the gen 
eral preparation for a coming war, we greatly need a sense of true 
proportions. Oh, for a Mark Twain or a Mr. Dooley to "shoot folly 

50 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

as it flies"! Oh, for statesmen who look beyond the goal of political 
or military victory to a just and peaceful world in which all nations 
may live together in harmony! 

School and College 

Between my sixth and thirteenth years I attended three public 
schools in the different places where we lived in central Ohio. These 
were one-room, one-teacher schools, of which I have many vivid 
memories, and which undoubtedly left many impressions upon me. 

In the autumn of 1877, 1 entered the Delaware, Ohio, high school, 
from which I graduated three years later. I remember with gratitude 
the encouragement and inspiration of the woman principal of that 
school and my growing ambition to excel in scholarship, associated 
as it was with a sense of physical inferiority, for I was so nearsighted 
that in school I had to occupy a chair near the blackboard and could 
never take active part in sports; and a sense of social inferiority was 
at first forced upon me by the "town guys," who always called me 
"Hayseed" or "Seedy" because my home was two miles outside the 
town, made fun of my clothing or my shyness, and often challenged 
me to unequal combats. In this rough school of democracy I learned 
to defend myself, but soon realized that while I could not excel in 
strength, I could win respect by courage. No doubt this had its in 
fluence in turning my attention to activities in which I could excel. 
For more than seven years, while I attended high school and col 
lege, I lived at home in the country and walked or later rode a high 
bicycle every day to and from classes. 

I entered the Ohio Wesleyan University in the fall of 1880 with 
out any conditions in studies, but since I had never studied Greek 
I was classified in the scientific course, which permitted the sub 
stitution of extra courses in science and mathematics for Greek, but 
was otherwise almost identical with the classical course. However, I 
was advised to take up Greek in the summer school, and this I did for 
three summers, but since I had not finished all requirements for the 
A.B. degree before graduation I was graduated in 1885 with the 
degree B.S., but with the understanding that I might also take the 

Edwin Grant Conjoin 51 

A.B. degree when I had finished all lacking requirements for that 
degree. After having taught Latin and Greek and other subjects 
after graduation, I was granted the A.B. degree in 1886. 

In my third year in college I dropped out of classes from November 
to April to teach a district school in the country four miles from 
my home. After beginning college work that year I found that I 
lacked money for certain expenses which I felt were highly desirable, 
especially the purchase of many books in which I could make mar 
ginal notes, and as I did not wish to burden my parents with addi 
tional expenses I sought and obtained employment as teacher of a 
country school. Except for occasional jobs at day labor and the super 
intending of farm work for one summer, which my father turned 
over to me with the proposal that I could keep whatever I could 
make out of the farm, this was the first moneymaking employment 
which I had ever undertaken. It was not a great success financially 
for I undertook to teach the twenty to thirty pupils in that school, 
ranging in studies from the ABCs to high school subjects, and to 
serve as janitor, sweeping the room and building the fire each morn 
ing, for 100 days for $175. But while this experience in self-help was 
not a great success financially, it was one of the most valuable experi 
ences of my whole life, for it taught me self-reliance and confidence 
in my ability to succeed. At the same time it served to review much 
that I had learned before, sharpened my sense of order and discipline, 
and gave me a real love of teaching. 

When I entered college I had no particular predilection for any 
subject of study, but I enjoyed most my work in natural history, 
largely because of my admiration for the professor in that subject. 
He was a splendid teacher, and while he had no laboratory indoors 
he took his advanced students on occasional field trips where we col 
lected many fossils from the Silurian limestone and the Devonian 
shale of that region, and many animals from the river and ponds, 
particularly mollusks. We classified these specimens but made no 
further study of them. Our course in botany was limited to the prepa 
ration of herbarium sheets and descriptions of fifty flowering plants. 
Zoology, anatomy, and physiology were studied from textbooks, with 
some illustrative material from the museum. In my senior year I 

52 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

served as assistant in the museum and thereby learned a good deal of 
zoology, especially about the classifications of mollusks. 

Much attention was given in college at that time to elocution and 
public speaking and I took an active part in this. I joined a literary 
society, wrote short essays and verses, took part in debates and ora 
tions, and in general devoted more time to such extracurricular ac 
tivities than to any one of my regular courses or to any form of 
athletics. Toward the end of my junior year I was chosen by my liter 
ary society to represent it in an oratorical contest between different 
societies which would be held near the middle of senior year and I 
spent much time during the intervening summer vacation in trying 
to find a suitable topic for my oration. 

A study of John Brown's raid on the United States Arsenal at Har 
per's Ferry led me to believe that after his initial success in collecting 
slaves to be carried off to Canada, he changed his plan and decided 
that he could accomplish vastly more to arouse the nation against 
slavery by remaining and sacrificing himself and his band than by 
running off a few slaves to Canada that he was in fact a self-sacrificed 
martyr. This was the theme of my rather perfervid oration and I 
think it marks a critical point in my mental and moral development, 
for I caught the spirit of self-sacrifice which it portrayed and resolved 
to devote my life to some great humane cause. 

Choice of Profession of Teaching 

Up to the middle of my last year in college I had not decided what 
I should do next. Almost all of my professors at that time were or 
dained ministers in the Methodist Church and one of these asked 
me why I did not consider entering the ministry. I replied that I 
had never felt a "call" to do so; he then said, "Any man with the 
proper qualities of head and heart has all the call that is needed." 
This deeply impressed me and a short time after, in company with 
several other students, I applied to a local examining board of min 
isters for what was known as a Local Preacher's license. We were 
put through a perfunctory examination on the Bible, and on our 
faith and practice, and were licensed to be local, or lay, preachers. 

Edwin Grant Contain 5j 

But upon my graduation, it was necessary for me to find some 
paying employment, for I had borrowed money to meet expenses in 
college and could not at that time go further into debt. My previous 
experience in teaching caused me to seek a position in some college 
or high school, but, in spite of many applications and letters of recom 
mendation from my professors, I had no success. Finally, sometime 
in September, 1885, 1 had an interview with the Reverend R. S. Rust, 
D.D., Secretary of the Freedman's Aid and Southern Education So 
ciety of the Methodist Church, at which time he offered me a position 
as Professor of Latin and Greek in an institution that bore his name> 
Rust University, at Holly Springs, Mississippi. In spite of the fact 
that the salary offered was only $600 for the first year and $700 after 
that, with room and board furnished if I acted as proctor in the 
dormitory and dining hall, I gladly accepted the offer as it gave me 
the opportunity for which I longed, to take part in a most necessary 
and humane work Negro education. 

I found at once that Rust University was a university in name 
only; it included all grades of instruction from common school to 
college rank. For three years, 1885-1888, 1 held this position, teaching 
not only Latin and Greek, but all the sciences that were taught there, 
and in addition classes in English, elocution, and United States his- 
tory. During these years I took an active part in the religious exer 
cises of the institution, accompanied the white District Superin 
tendent, or Presiding Elder of the Methodist Church (North) to 
some of his quarterly meetings in outlying Negro churches in vari 
ous parts of the State, and thus became familiar with the general 
condition of the Negro, and with the relations between the races, in 
the "blackest State" in the Union. 

During my first year at Rust University, where all the principal 
members of the faculty were white, I became engaged to Miss Belle 
Adkinson, head of the music department, and the daughter of the 
Reverend L. G. Adkinson, D.D., President of Moore's Hill College 
(now Evansville College) in Southern Indiana. A year later, in 
1886, Dr. Adkinson became President of New Orleans University, 
a Freedman's Aid institution of the Methodist Church, and Miss Ad 
kinson then went with her family to New Orleans and remained 

54 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

there until our marriage in 1889. For more than fifty years she was 
my constant helpmate, and the very personification o faith, hope 
and love as described by Paul (I Corinthians, 13). 

With my engagement and expectation of marriage, my self- 
sacrificing idealism became tempered with some worldly realism, 
and my acquaintance with the enormous problems of the education 
and social welfare of Negroes caused me to realize that these prob 
lems could not be solved in one generation, and that the most effec 
tive leaders in this great work must be found among the Negroes 
themselves. There were no prospects of promotion at Rust University, 
and I came to feel that I might be able to do more important work 
in the future than I had been doing for the past three years; and 
when an unsolicited offer of a professorship in biology came to me 
from a college in Illinois, I declined the offer because I knew that I 
was not fitted for such a position and at once applied for admission 
to the department of biology in the graduate school of The Johns 
Hopkins University, and there my introduction to the critical habits 
of a scientific investigator began. 

I was at Johns Hopkins for three years, 1888-1891, my principal 
subject of study being animal morphology under Professor W. K. 
Brooks, and, my minors being physiology, under Professor H. Newell 
Martin, and geology and paleontology with Dr. W. B. Clark; and 
my associations with other instructors and graduate students were 
most enlightening. 

I cannot begin to describe adequately the stimulus for scholarly 
work and research which I received at Johns Hopkins. It was as if 
I had entered a new world with new outlooks on nature, new respect 
for exact science, new determination to contribute to the best of my 
ability to "the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men." One 
of my early duties was to find a suitable subject for a doctoral thesis, 
and after a few preliminary studies of minor significance, but which 
led to my first scientific publication, I spent the summer of 1890 at 
the great biological center at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and ia 
that stimulating environment found almost ideal material for my 
thesis, in the study, cell by cell, of the development of an animal from 
the fertilization of its egg to its highly differentiated form. This study 

Edwin Grant Conklin 55 

constituted my thesis and my first major contribution to science, 
and it has been the inspiration of much of my later research, just as 
this first summer at Woods Hole has been followed by more than 
sixty summers there, with the exception of two spent outside of this 
country and one on our West Coast. I cannot begin to name all the 
persons and events that have contributed greatly to my mental and 
moral development. Suffice it to say that "I am a part of all that I 
have met," and I have been most fortunate in my opportunities and 

Before I had finished my last year at Johns Hopkins I was invited 
by Dr. James W. Bashford, the new President of Ohio Wesleyan 
University, my alma mater, to become Professor of Biology there. I 
gladly accepted this offer, but on condition that I should be per 
mitted to teach evolution, for I considered this the central theme of 
biology, the connecting thread on which all details of the science could 
be strung. President Bashford readily agreed to this and, to meet 
criticism which might be expected from certain quarters, he gave his 
first Sunday afternoon lecture, after I had joined the faculty, on the 
topic of theistic evolution, which he strongly supported. For three 
years, 1891-1894, I organized the biological laboratory there and 
taught all branches of that science, except physiology. I also gave a 
Sunday lecture course on evolution and religion which was largely 
attended. I also proposed a reorganization of the curriculum and a 
detailed system of elective courses, but as there were practically no 
elective courses and as I was the first full professor that had been 
added to the faculty in twenty years, I naturally created some dis 
quiet on the part of some of the older members of the faculty, my 
former teachers. 

Under these circumstances and amidst deep regret on the part of 
President Bashford, myself, and most of the faculty, I decided to 
accept a call from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, to 
organize a Zoological Laboratory there and to be their first professor 
of Zoology. Again I specified that I should be permitted to teach 
evolution, because Northwestern had been founded by Methodists, 
some of whom were anti-evolutionists, President Henry Wade 
Rodgers jocosely said that whatever they could stand at Ohio 

56 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

Wesleyan could be endured at Northwestern. Freedom in teaching 
and research I had in full measure and I heard of no criticisms on 
account of my evolution lectures until near the end of my stay there. 
Lyman Abbot had given the Commencement Address of 1894 at 
Northwestern on the subject of evolution, and this, together with 
my teaching of that subject, was used as a means of attacking the 
administration of the University by certain clerical members of the 
Rock River Methodist Conference. 

However, at that time I eliminated myself as a cause of dissension 
by accepting a call from the University of Pennsylvania, where I was 
Professor of Embryology from 1896 to 1899 and Professor of Zoology 
from that date to 1908. There I had the utmost freedom at the 
University and in the learned societies of Philadelphia in advocating 
evolution and in exploring its causes, but on an early occasion, when 
I accepted an invitation to address the Philadelphia Methodist 
Preachers Meeting on evolution, I found that some of their members 
were as violently opposed to it as was William Jennings Bryan some 
twenty-five years later. Under these circumstances I did not transfer 
my church membership from Evanston to Philadelphia, but I still 
continued to speak occasionally on science and religion in churches 
and church congresses. 

It would be amusing if it were not so pathetic to see how persist 
ently some people hold on to traditional beliefs, especially in theology, 
long after they have been outgrown in advancing knowledge. And 
this is especially the case with regard to the warfare between theology 
and biology concerning the doctrine of evolution, a large part of 
which warfare has occurred in my lifetime. It was this unreasoning 
antagonism on the part of defenders of the traditional views of 
creation, whether they were clergymen, lawyers, politicians, legisla 
tors, or just plain men and women, that has led me to devote as 
much time as I could spare to writing and speaking in explanation 
and defense of evolution. I suppose I must have given outside of my 
classes a thousand public lectures on this subject. This was, indeed, 
one of the "causes" to which I pledged my best effort. I have in my 
files a large amount of correspondence, pamphlets, and books in 
denunciation of evolution, and of myself for defending it, and when- 

Edwin Grant Conjoin 57 

ever any newspaper notice of a lecture o mine on this subject appears, 
it is almost certain to stir up antagonism. When my book on The 
Direction of Human Evolution* appeared some thirty years ago, 
President Hibben of Princeton University received letters from 
prominent churchmen demanding my removal from the faculty, and 
the editor of The Presbyterian fulminated against the book and its 
author. President Hibben replied that I was teaching what President 
McCosh had advocated fifty years earlier, and what the scientists of 
the world generally approved. In the course of centuries I suppose 
that such opposition to evolution will cease; I have seen no recent 
outbreak against the Copernican theory. 

Religion and Church Relations 

1 have passed through several stages in my religious life and to 
many of my orthodox friends they will seem to be descending steps. 
My home life was normally and not excessively religious; my parents 
were leading members of the Methodist churches where we lived, 
and I went to church with my parents and my sister on Sundays and 
attended Sunday school where, because of my good memory, I 
received prizes for reciting whole chapters of the Gospel according 
to St. John, and various of the Psalms. Before I was seventeen years 
old I had read, perhaps as a stunt, the whole of the King James 
version of the Bible, and had committed to memory large portions 
of it. 

When I was thirteen years old, a great revival meeting was being 
held and I determined "to go to the mourner's bench and experience 
religion." I had no proper idea of what I was seeking nor how to 
find it, but I knew I had many faults of which I repented, and in the 
puritanical atmosphere of The Methodist Eoo\ of Discipline, which 
had come down from John Wesley with few changes, such worldly 
amusements as card playing, dancing, and the theater, were con 
demned as sinful. I had not been guilty of any of these, but I had not 
avoided all Sunday amusements, and, in spite of the admonition, "I 

2 Edward G. Conklin, The Direction of Human Evolution, Charles Scribner's Sons, 
New York, 2nd edition, 1922. 

5<S Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

must not work, I must not play. It is the holy Sabbath Day," I had 
frequently broken this interpretation of the Fourth Commandment. 
Also I had acquired the thought, from the "hush, hush" attitude of 
all my elders on that subject, that sex and sin were synonymous, and 
that all sex thoughts and feelings were sinful and must be suppressed. 

Under these circumstances I went to the mourner's bench, repented 
of my sins, and sought forgiveness. I was told that if I clung to God 
and His promises I would feel the ecstasy of forgiveness and salva 
tion, but I felt no ecstasy and therefore doubted whether I had been 
"converted." But I was baptized, joined the church and vowed to lead 
a religious life, and this I think I did as well as any other boys of my 
acquaintance. Indeed, I am sure that my public "profession of 
religion" kept me from yielding to many temptations. If "an open 
confession is good for the soul," an open profession is good for the 
spine, determination. 

I presume that as a child I believed literally all that I was taught 
about God and the Bible, heaven and hell, sin and salvation, im 
mortality of the soul and resurrection of the body, and I remember 
that as I began to question some of these orthodox beliefs I was 
warned that all such doubts were mortal sins that must not be allowed 
to arise. I was told that reason and learning were often false guides, 
and was advised, "Take your reason captive." But in spite of all this 
pious advice my gradual loss of faith in many orthodox beliefs came 
inevitably with increasing knowledge of nature and growth of a 
critical sense. 

In college I took the required courses in Bible history, Evidences of 
Christianity, and especially Bishop Butler's Analogy of Religion 
to the Course and Constitution of Nature, and later I read a multitude 
of books and sermons on the relations of science and religion, natural 
and revealed truth, nature and the supernatural, the foundations of 
faith, etc. On the other hand such books as J. W. Draper's History of 
the Conflict between Religion and Science (1874) and later Andrew 
D. White's The Warfare of Science and Theology (1905) showed 
the impossibility of harmonizing many traditional doctrines of 
theology with the demonstrations of modern science. But the possi 
bility remained that these traditional beliefs were not essential articles 

Edwin Grant Conjoin 59 

of religious faith, or were not to be interpreted literally but rather 
poetically and figuratively. My early religious teachings and associa 
tions led me to adopt this view, and in several books and magazine 
articles I have attempted to show that science has revealed a grander 
universe than was ever dreamed of in prescientific times, and that 
while many former theological beliefs must now be abandoned, the 
fundamental articles of religious faith remain. 

Evolution and Creation 

While I was in college the bitter denunciations of evolution and of 
Darwin by our professor of mental and moral philosophy first turned 
my attention to that subject. I got a copy of Darwin's Origin of 
Species from the library, and, while I could not appreciate much of it, 
I was impressed with the fact that abundant evidence was offered 
for the general theory of evolution, and that the book ended on a 
quite idealistic note. The next time the professor indulged in one 
of his tirades against Darwin I asked him if he had ever read any 
of his books. He replied with emotion, "No, I wouldn't touch them 
with a ten foot pole!" I then asked permission to read to him and to 
the class the last sentence of the Origin of Species: 

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having 
been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one, and 
that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of 
gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and 
most wonderful have been, and are being evolved. 

When the professor heard this, he said in amazement, "Did Darwin 
write that?" 

A general opinion of evolution among religious persons at that 
time was that it was an atheistic scheme by which it was hoped to 
get rid of a God. Thomas Carlyle wrote: 

I have known three generations of Darwins, atheists all! Ah! it is a sad 
and terrible thing to see nigh a whole generation of men and women 
looking around in a purblind way, and finding no God in this universe. 

60 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

And this is what we have got all things from frog spawn; the gospel of 
dirt the order of the day! 

This unreasoning attitude of anti-evolutionists, rather than the 
scientific evidences in its favor, first made me one of its advocates. 
Like Alfred Russell Wallace, co-discoverer with Darwin of the prin 
ciple of Natural Selection, I tried at first to limit the natural evolution 
of man to his body, allowing a supernatural origin to the soul, and I 
endeavored to minimize theological objections by regarding evolu 
tion as a natural method of creation. Only slowly did I come to 
realize that evolution applies to the whole man, body, mind, and 
morals, just as individual development does. Indeed, individual 
development, or ontogeny, is the counterpart of evolution or phy- 
logeny, and is at present the most fruitful means of studying species 
development. Most of the great course of evolution occurred in the 
distant past, and there is no present means of studying it experi 
mentally, but development of the individual occurs daily before our 
eyes as one of the most common phenomena of nature, and if any 
thing in the world is natural, all development, including that of 
man, is natural. 

This conclusion like the Copernican, or heliocentric theory of the 
solar system, has proved to be devastating to many traditional ideas 
concerning man and the universe. What now has become of the idea 
that the earth is the center of the universe which was made for man; 
that he is the chief end and aim of all creation; that he was created 
perfect in body, mind, and morals; that by the sin of disobedience he 
"brought death into the world and all our woe" ? These are some of 
the questions which modern science has raised concerning the 
governance of the universe and the origin of man, and the necessary 
scientific answers are so devastating that many devout and humane 
persons shrink from them and seek any possible way of escape. 

From my first acquaintance with the theory of evolution, I have 
regarded it as the greatest and most inclusive theme of biology, and 
one of the most liberalizing doctrines in the long history of man's 
attempts to determine his place in nature. And yet I recognized its 
devastating effect on some traditional beliefs and tried to find ways of 
preserving the foundations of my faith. Many devout scientists sug- 

Edwin Grant Contyin 61 

gested, and I agreed, that our present science deals only with one 
aspect of the universe and man, namely, that which is the object of 
our senses and is measurable; and they concluded that there may be 
other aspects not of this character, that there are indeed "more things 
in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy." When 
one considers how recent all our scientific knowledge is, as compared 
with the millions of years of past evolution, it seems not unreasonable 
to suppose that there may be still other aspects of reality to be dis 
covered and explored. This applies particularly, I think, to the sub 
jective and personal aspects of our experience. Natural science deals 
chiefly with objective phenomena, and regards feelings, thought, 
consciousness, as the functions of certain parts or structures of the 
organism. But the precise relations between sense organs and 
sensations, between brain and thinking, body and consciousness, and 
in general between object and subject, the world and the ego, have 
not been satisfactorily explained. Some materialistic scientists have 
maintained that subjective phenomena that cannot be explained 
mechanistically as products of the vital machine, have no existence 
in reality. The material organism, they maintain, is the real thing, 
the cause of subjective feelings, desires, consciousness, which are 
mere "epiphenomena," or are not real. But nothing in the world is 
more real than feelings of sensation, identity, self; of purpose, 
thought, consciousness. If these are delusions, everything is delusion, 
including objective phenomena, for the latter can be recognized only 
by the subjective self. 

I am always amazed at the self-satisfied confidence of some 
mechanists that all major problems of the universe have been solved 
by present-day science and that nothing more remains to be done but 
to fill in minor details. This was the attitude of physicists in general 
at the beginning of the present century regarding the phenomena of 
the world of physics. Albert Michelson, America's first Nobel prize 
man, in physics said in an inaugural address at The University of 
Chicago in 1894 that future advances in the knowledge of light would 
be limited to changes in the sixth decimal place. And then came the 
discovery of radioactivity, the quantum theory and a new world 
of physics. 

62 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

All principles and causes of evolution from bacteria to orchids, 
from amoeba to man, are now found by experimentalists in the 
chance mutations of genes and the natural elimination of the unfit 
as if the almost infinite complexity, fitness, beauty, mentality, and 
moral qualities that have appeared in the course of evolution were 
all explained by these two relatively undefined factors chance muta 
tions and elimination of the unfit. It is natural for experimentalists to 
over-simplify their problems and solutions, but is it not the part of 
wisdom to look for new principles and new factors in the immense 
universe of life ? 

Purely materialistic conceptions of nature focus more attention 
upon the elements that enter into a process than upon the qualities 
that issue from it upon analysis rather than synthesis and this is 
especially evident when we consider the novel qualities that result 
from such syntheses. Throughout the whole of nature new qualities 
arise as a consequence of new combinations of elementary units which 
generally lack these qualities, that is, these new qualities are created 
not out of nothing, to be sure, and not supernaturally, but nonetheless 
really. This universally present phenomenon is known as creation by 
synthesis or creative synthesis. It is present in all chemical processes, 
as for example in the synthesis of two atoms of hydrogen and one 
of oxygen to produce a substance, water, with entirely new qualities. 

Similar creative syntheses occur throughout the whole of chemistry 
and physics giving rise to the innumerable properties of all the 
substances found in nature, and of many which man is now making 
for the first time. Among these are highly complex compounds of 
carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, each with its own peculiar 
properties, the outcome of creative syntheses. It is highly probable, 
although not as yet demonstrated, that some of these syntheses pro 
duce different complex compounds that are specifically associated, 
that is, organized, and that this organization creates in such a system 
some of the elementary properties of life, such as (i) interstitial 
growth and division of constituent parts, or panmerism; (2) division 
of the entire system, or organism, and therefore asexual reproduction; 
(3) capacity to regulate or restore typical conditions when these are 
disturbed; (4) ability to respond to particular stimuli in specific 

Edwin Grant Con^lin 63 

ways and hence differential sensitivity. These are fundamental 
properties of life and there is evidence that they are the results o 
creative synthesis, and therefore that life has arisen by this process. 

In the development of the egg of any animal or plant creative 
syntheses are taking place at every stage, and this joined with pro 
gressive segregation of different substances already present, leads to 
the differentiation of cells, tissues, organs, and systems with all of 
their different functions. This is the basis of the present theory of 
development known as epigenesis, as contrasted with a former theory 
known as preformation, which held that the complete animal or 
plant was present in miniature in the egg. According to epigenesis 
there is no homunculus, or little man, in the human egg, but only a 
system of compounds with their properties, a system of structures and 
functions which, by a series of creative syntheses among these and 
other units from the environment, give rise to all the structures and 
functions, instincts and behaviors of the developed man. The con 
troversy between preformationists and epigenesists that occurred 
toward the end of the previous century concerned only the degree of 
complexity of the organization of the egg and not any proposed 
return to the impossible theory of preformation. 

Whether this same process of creative synthesis can explain the 
origin of all the vast world of mental, moral, and spiritual phenomena 
seems to me less certain, and yet the unity of the entire individual as 
shown in the correlated development and decay of body and mind 
points in that direction. If we frankly accept the philosophy of 
monism, to which the scientific study of psychology, sociology, and 
philosophy are leading, must we not assign to the material and 
synthetic processes of development and evolution a more spiritual 
character than is granted in gross materialism? Indeed do not nature 
and natural law reflect many of the qualities usually ascribed to deity ? 

It is interesting to find that some of the world's foremost scientists 
and philosophers have recently expressed views of this character. 
The late Sir Arthur Eddington regarded his "qualitative principle," 
which in many respects resembles "creative synthesis," as a more 
complete conception of nature than any purely quantitative one. 
Alfred North Whitehead, late professor of philosophy at Harvard 

64 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

University, regarded God and the world-process as in some way 
bound up with each other, and as co-eternal. Sir Edmund Whittaker 
concludes a recent lecture on "Eddington's Principle in the Philoso 
phy of Science" with this inspiring thought: 

The conception of a rule of law, in itself timeless, which is intelligible to 
our minds and which governs all the happenings of the material world, is 
the spiritual aspect of physical science. We stand in awe before the thought 
that the intellectual framework of nature is prior to nature herself that 
it existed before the material universe began its history that the cosmos 
revealed to us by science is only one fragment in the plan of the 
Eternal " 3 

Freedom and Responsibility 

But while this more spiritual conception of creation by synthesis 
throughout all nature affords a basic philosophy which can find 
place for both objective and subjective, material and spiritual phe- 
jnomena, it does not without further elaboration harmonize the 
apparent conflicts between the two. One of the first of these which at 
one time troubled me greatly, was the conflict between the deter 
minism of nature and the freedom of the individual. This is a subject 
tthat is as old as civilization, perhaps much older, for, according to 
Milton, among the hosts of primeval hell there were philosophers who 

In thoughts more elevate, reasoned high 
Of providence, foreknowledge, will and fate; 
Fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute, 
And found no end in wandering mazes lost. 

Every effect must have its adequate cause, or rather causes, and if 
this relation of cause and effect is absolutely fixed, there can be no 
variation from it, and consequently no freedom. This position has 
been maintained by many philosophers since those of Milton's hell, 
and has been held generally by scientists. When the details of 
Mendelian heredity were being explored at the beginning of this 
century, it was found that the heredity of every individual is fixed 

8 Sir Edmund Whittaker, F. R. $., "Eddington's Principle in the Philosophy of 
Science," American Scientist, XL, i, January, 1952. 

Edwin Grant Conjoin 65 

at the time of the union o the germ cells, and while the environment 
may vary thereafter, the individual has little or no ability to control 
it in early stages of development. Consequently, it was held by many 
that man is never free, because he is the product of heredity and 
environment over which he has no control 

This conclusion was so contrary to general beliefs, practices, cus 
toms, laws, and especially to our own conscious experience, that I 
jelt that something must be wrong in this reasoning. And yet some 
of my scientific and philosophic friends maintained it with convic 
tion and attributed my defense of freedom to my religious back 
ground. In particular, my friend, Jacques Loeb, the physiologist, 
stoutly held that the sense of freedom which we have is a complete 
delusion, that in reality we are never free. As he said this to me, 
on one occasion, he saw his small son running down to the beach 
with an open clasp knife in his hand, and he shouted, "Bobby, close 
that knife. You might fall on it." I said, "Now, Loeb, live your 
philosophy." His only reply was to wink one eye at me. 

Clarence Darrow, the distinguished criminal lawyer, maintained, 
in certain famous trials and in his book entitled Crime, that men 
do what they are compelled to do by their nature and therefore that 
they are not free nor responsible for their acts. He consulted me 
about this hoping to get my approval, but when I took the customary 
view on this matter, I could not shake him from his hypothetical but 
impractical position. 

In 1912, I chose as the topic of my presidential address before the 
American Society of Naturalists the subject, "Heredity and Responsi 
bility," and in it tried to show that the solution of this age old 
problem was to be found in avoiding extremes the extreme of 
absolute determinism, on one side, and of absolute freedom, on the 
other. We know that we are neither absolutely free nor absolutely 
bound, but between those two extremes we do have a considerable 
degree of freedom and responsibility. 

How this relaxation of complete determinism is made possible, has 
only relatively recently been clarified. We know that the "chain of 
cause and effect" is not a single straight chain connecting these two, 
but rather a complicated network. This is the principle of multiple 

66 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

causes of every effect, and it is nearer the truth to say that every effect 
is the result of everything that has gone before, than that it is the 
product of any single cause. Multiple causes increase the chances of 
variable results. 

Another relaxation of absolute determinism is found in the fact 
that even exact science never reaches absolute certainty about any 
thing. Science deals only with probabilities of a higher or lower 
order and must always allow for "the probability of error." The so- 
called "uncertainty principle" of Heisenberg, according to which it 
is not possible to determine at the same time both the position of an 
electron and its speed, might better have been called the principle of 
"limited measurability," which applies to all physical phenomena. In 
.short, "the demon of the absolute" has wrought havoc in science as 
well as in philosophy and theology. The upshot of all this is the 
finding of a scientific basis for the common-sense view, widely held 
by people everywhere, that scientific determinism does not mean 
predeterminism or fixed fate, and that normal persons are left with 
a certain degree of freedom. Laws and customs of all civilized nations 
recognize this principle of relative responsibility; children and 
demented persons are not held equally responsible with others. 

About the time of the famous trial in 1925 of the case of the State 
of Tennessee against John T. Scopes for teaching the evolution of 
man in his high school class in biology, which attracted worldwide 
interest, some enterprising students at Princeton University pro 
moted a debate on the subject of the evolution of man between 
myself and Dr. John D. Davis, Professor of Oriental and Old Testa 
ment Literature in Princeton Theological Seminary. A large audience 
was present in Alexander Hall to witness what many hoped would 
be a conflict, like that staged at the Scopes trial between Clarence 
Darrow for the defense and William Jennings Bryan for the prosecu 
tion; but this hope was never realized. I spoke first, presenting the 
scientific evidence in favor of the evolution of man, in what I hope 
was a convincing but non-aggressive manner. Dr. Davis followed, 
beginning with a completely disarming statement: "I leave to the 
biologist," he said, "the scientific evidences of the biological origin 
of man. Theological interest begins when man first became a free 

Edwin Grant Con^lin 67 

moral agent" This definition of the proper areas of science and 
theology in this discussion completely avoided the provocation to a 
fight and admirably stated the basal claim of theology. Both science 
and theology can agree that man first became free when he learned 
to take advantage of the lack of absolute determinism, which lack 
human experience has always recognized, and science has only 
recently granted. He became moral when he first recognized the 
difference between right and wrong, when in the epic story of 
Genesis he ate fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 
He became an agent, i.e., an actor or doer, when he willed or chose 
to follow the right or the wrong, a capacity which he has always 
felt he had and which has only recently been confirmed by science. 

Mechanism and Finalism 

Rigid mechanists hold that science concerns itself only with means 
and causes, never with ends or purposes. They say it asks only the 
questions What, How, When, but never Why. But Why is the most 
important of all questions in dealing with the behavior of organisms 
and especially so with human behavior, and it is the most interesting 
question that can be asked regarding many phenomena of nature. 
Aristotle, "the master of those who know," was great in every field 
of knowledge, but perhaps greatest of all in zoology. He maintained 
that the essence of any animal is found not in what it is or how it 
acts, but in why it is and acts as it does. Some recent zoologists have 
barred this question why from their studies, largely because they have 
not been able to answer it in a purely objective and mechanistic 
manner, but nevertheless it remains as the most important question 
that can be asked about animal actions and reactions. 

All structures and functions of living things serve particular uses 
or functions, and they appear to have developed for certain ends or 
purposes, e.g., eyes for seeing, ears for hearing, noses for smelling, 
and so on with every organ and part of the body. There seems to be 
purpose in all these organs and functions. What is the source of 
this purpose? Formerly the theological answer was found in the 
design and purpose of God. But naturalists refused to abandon a 

68 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

natural explanation, and sought the answer in some power or principle 
o nature, but this remained relatively unknown and mysterious 
until less than one hundred years ago. 

The most distinctive contribution of Charles Darwin to science and 
philosophy was not the theory of evolution, which had been pro 
posed by several of his predecessors, but his theory of natural selec 
tion, which undertook to explain the origin of fitness in the living 
world, and consequently the "preservation of favored races in the 
struggle for life." He recognized the well known fact that different 
animals and plants vary in almost every respect and that some of 
these variations are more useful, others less beneficial. He also 
recognized what every careful observer knows, that in general many 
more young are born than can reach maturity, that there is an 
enormous death rate in nature, and that in general the weakest and 
worst fitted to live are first to die, while the better fitted are more 
likely to survive and leave offspring. 

This almost self-evident principle he called "natural selection," and 
he marshalled a vast amount of evidence in its favor. It has now 
been tested for nearly a century in many thousands of animals and 
plants, and there is no doubt that it is a most important "perfecting 
principle." Many naturalists maintain that it is the only thing 
necessary to explain the wonderful fitness of organisms for survival 
in the places they occupy in nature. Time and space do not permit 
a further elaboration of natural selection in many fields, but there is 
no doubt that it is one of the most fundamental laws or principles in 
all nature. 

A similar principle operates not only in the evolution of animals 
and plants, but also in their individual development and behavior. 
Not only are unfit individuals eliminated all along the course of 
development from germ cells to adults, but a similar elimination of 
unfit or injurious responses to stimuli leads to useful or beneficial 
behavior. For example, if the protozoon, paramecium, is placed in a 
glass trough of water one end of which is hot and the other cold, the 
animal continues to swim in all possible directions, but whenever 
it meets an obstacle or unfavorable condition it stops, swings into a 
new direction, and once more goes ahead. By this simple process 

Edwin Grant Conjoin 69 

endlessly repeated, it avoids obstacles, as well as the hot or cold ends 
of the trough, and finally comes to rest in the middle region, or in its 
food material. It has found favorable positions or conditions by 
eliminating in this way unfavorable ones. 

This type of behavior is known as "trial and error," repeated until 
finally trial leads to success. It characterizes the initial behavior of all 
organisms, from the simplest to the most complex; and this manner 
of attaining useful behavior is found in all kinds of learning, as, for 
example, when cats learn to let themselves out of a box by lifting a 
latch, or horses learn to open a gate, or children learn to walk or talk 
or play games. In every such case many varied actions are tried at 
first, those that do not succeed or give satisfaction are not continued, 
those that do are continued. Animals that have associative memory 
remember past failures and successes, and thereafter learn to repeat 
only the latter. Trial and error is therefore a type of elimination of 
unfit responses in the realm of behavior. In higher animals it leads 
directly to intelligent behavior, for initial intelligence may be defined 
as the capacity to profit by past experience. This great principle of 
the survival of the fit and elimination of the unfit, is thus seen to be 
a guiding factor in the evolution of fitness in species and of intelli 
gence in man and higher animals, and it offers a clue to the causal 
explanation of one of the most profound of all problems, namely, 
that of purpose. 

Everywhere in the living world we see that ends or goals are 
involved; the universal goal is survival, as Darwinism recognizes. 
How is it possible in causal phenomena to have ends or effects serve 
as causes ? This would seem to be a reversal of the usual order of cause 
and effect. But in the case of all animals that can learn anything, 
memory of past failures and successes acts as a cause in future 
responses. A similar principle is found even in non-living machines, 
for example, self-regulating devices such as governors, thermostats, 
etc., in which the effect of a previous reaction is "fed back" as a 
cause in a future reaction. Many phenomena in nature are repetitive, 
and in the living world almost all reactions are cyclical. In all such 
cases effects may in later cycles become causes, goals may generate 
new starts, ends influence means, ideals and purposes become causes. 

jo Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

This principle o the "feedback** of former effects into following 
causes has recently been exploited as a new brance of science, viz., 

In this way some of the most profound phenomena of life and 
mind are found capable of being classified as natural and causal. 
Indeed, there has recently been great activity in some branches of 
science in making calculating machines, differential calculators, even 
so-called "thinking machines," all of which demonstrate that impor 
tant mental processes are synthesized from mechanical conditions; 
but of course such machines do not make themselves, back of every 
one of them is the mind and purpose of its inventor. 

If any one should think that such mechanistic "explanations" of life 
and mind, of freedom and purpose, of ethics and conscience, are 
final and complete, he has not begun to appreciate the magnitude of 
the problems which these phenomena present. For example, consider 
again the proposed solution of the great problem of fitness or purpose 
in nature, which is generally regarded by biologists as having been 
solved by the single principle of the continual elimination of the 
unfit, until by mere chance the fit arrives and is preserved. Apply 
this principle to the many adaptations and co-adaptations of any one 
of a multitude of structures and functions, of needs and satisfactions, 
or crises and behaviors of any animal, and see what a strain is put 
upon this factor which is held to be purely mechanical and non- 
intentional. Consider, for example, the adaptations and co-adaptations 
that are found in the eyes of man or other vertebrates- the re 
markable fitness of the retina, with its rods and cones for receiving 
and transmitting the stimuli of light of varying intensities and 
wave lengths; the beautiful dioptric apparatus of transparent cornea, 
lens, and humors; the elastic lens with the ciliary muscles for focusing 
the light coming from near and far objects; the iris with its intrinsic 
muscles for controlling the amount of light admitted; the eyeball and 
its accessory parts, tough outer coat, muscles, bony orbit, eyelids, 
eyelashes, eyebrows, lachrymal glands, and ducts, etc., etc. when one 
considers such an assembly of remarkable adaptations and co-adapta 
tions, it seems incredible, if not impossible, that all of these fitnesses, 
and multitudes of others which must be associated with them to bring 

Edwin Grant Con^lin ji 

about effective vision, should have been produced by individual 
chance mutations in each of these innumerable parts, followed by the 
elimination of those animals that lacked some of these fitnesses. Do 
we not load upon chance mutation an impossible burden in re 
quiring it to provide all the functions and structures and correlations 
of such a series of remarkable fitnesses? Surely there must be other 
factors than those now recognized by biologists to bring about such 
wonderful adaptations! It is no wonder that Darwin is said to have 
confessed that he never thought of attempting to explain the evolu 
tion of the eye without a shudder! 

Most of all when we consider the whole course of evolution from 
fire-mist to life and man and mind, does the mechanism of natural 
selection seem a useful but wholly inadequate explanation of the 
remarkable fitnesses that are everywhere evident. Even before life 
appeared on earth it was necessary that there should have developed 
a complicated fitness of the environment for life, as Lawrence J. 
Henderson has so ably demonstrated. And after life appeared the 
whole course of organic evolution "from amoeba to man"; from 
trial and error to intelligence and reason; from the relaxation of 
absolute determinism to relative freedom and voluntarism; from 
differential sensitivity, satiations and sufferances, satisfactions and 
dissatisfactions, to purposes, ideals, and aspirations; from instincts of 
mating, care of young, and mutual defense, to social cooperation, 
ethics, and conscience when one considers this whole course of 
physical, intellectual, and moral evolution how incredible, or even 
impossible, it seems that all this should have come about by blind 
chance or mere accident! There must have been some directing 
cause, either outside of nature or in nature itself a deus ex machina 
or a deus in machina. 

One may discount or disregard excessive claims of universal fitness 
and purpose in nature, for there have been many misfits and mistakes; 
one may omit what Huxley has called "the frivolities of teleology," 
but there is left such a body of substantial facts in support of 
teleology in nature, as to convince Huxley himself and other serious 
students of evolution that teleology is a principle of nature, correla 
tive with causality. On this Huxley wrote: "Perhaps the most re- 

72 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

markable service to the philosophy of biology rendered by Mr. 
Darwin is the reconciliation o teleology and morphology, and the 
explanation of the facts of both which his views offer." Darwin 
confessed the "extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving 
this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his 
capacity of looking far backward and far into the future, as the result 
of blind chance or necessity." On this subject Weismann said, "The 
most complete mechanism conceivable is likewise the most com 
plete teleology conceivable. With this conception vanish all appre 
hensions that the new views of evolution would cause man to lose 
the best that he possesses morality and purely human culture." And 
L. J. Henderson sums up his book on The Order of Nature with 
these thoughtful words: "Nothing more remains but ... to con 
clude that the contrast of mechanism with teleology is the very 
foundation of the order of nature, which must ever be regarded 
from two complementary points of view as a vast assembly of 
changing systems and as an harmonious unity of changeless laws 
and qualities working together in the process of evolution." 4 

These opinions of distinguished naturalists could be indefinitely 
extended, and they give me courage in an age of scientific doubt 
concerning teleology to declare my conviction that science, no less 
than common sense, reveals to us a universe of ends as well as of 
means, of teleology as well as of mechanism. But such teleology is as 
much a part of nature as is causality. 

Nature and the Supernatural 

The conflict between science and the theology has centered largely 
in conflicting views regarding nature and the supernatural. In 
prescientific ages religion was usually associated with supernatural 
agencies and many devout persons today believe that supernatural 
beings and miraculous occurrences are fundamental to any and all 
religion. But with the progress of science the area of the supernatural 
and miraculous has gradually grown smaller, and the area of the 

4 Lawrence J. Henderson, The Order of Nature, Harvard University Press, Cam 
bridge, 1917. 

Edwin Grant ConT^lin 7j 

natural has increased, so that the latter now includes practically all 
o the universe that can be subjected to scientific investigation. Liberal 
theology now admits that "the age of miracles is past," but still main 
tains that miracles, that is, violations or suspensions of natural laws, 
occurred in former times. Indeed, supernatural agencies or occur 
rences constitute the very foundations of many religions. But grad 
ually, under the impact of science, supernatural events have receded 
from everyday affairs to the misty mountain tops of origins and to 
inaccessible beginnings, or the dim recesses of mysticism, occultism, 
spiritism. Science has been exploring these mountain tops and 
caverns and finding that here also, as well as on the plains of every 
day life, nature is supreme, in so far as it has been thoroughly 
explored. Therefore, it seems highly probable that everything in the 
universe is natural in origin and character, including all principles 
of causality and teleology, matter and energy, life and death, man and 
all his properties. In the words of Professor Brooks, my former 
teacher at The Johns Hopkins University, "The idea of the super 
natural is due to a misunderstanding; nature is everything that is." 
Is not this misunderstanding the result of failure to recognize the 
infinite greatness and majesty of nature, which now includes all 
that was once ascribed to supernature, or deity, except the supposed 
lack of order, system, law in the latter? 

It is interesting to find that this thought must have been in the 
mind of Darwin when he chose as significant texts for The Origin of 
Species, which texts are printed on the reverse of the title page of that 
book, quotations from WhewelFs Bridgewater Treatise, Bishop 
Butler's Analogy of Natural and Revealed Religion, and Francis 
Bacon's Advancement of Learning. In abbreviated form the text 
from Whewell reads, "We can perceive that events are brought about 
not by insulated interpositions of Divine power, exerted in each 
particular case, but by the establishment of general laws." Butler's 
quotation runs, "The only distinct meaning of the word 'natural' is 
stated, fixed, or settled, since what is natural as much presupposes 
an intelligent agent to render it so ... as what is supernatural or 
miraculous does to effect it for once." That is, there is no fundamental 
difference in the power and majesty of nature and that of postulated 

74 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

supernature; the only differences are in the assumption that the 
latter is not stated, fixed, settled, and that the former is not universal. 
These assumptions, like all universals or absolutes, lie beyond the 
reach of demonstration by methods of science, and must be regarded 
as probabilities of a higher or lower order. Regarded in this way, the 
universality of nature is highly probable, and the conclusion of 
Professor Brooks, "Nature is everything that is," will be accepted by 
most scientists. This conclusion carries with it modifications or cancel 
lations of some common articles of religious faith; but there is 
neither time nor space here to deal in detail with these. If nature is 
universal, it is only necessary to inquire whether or not articles of 
faith are consistent with nature. 

Confessio Fidei 

All that I have tried to develop up to this point is a system of 
science and philosophy dealing with nature and man. Religion differs 
from this chiefly in that it is concerned in large part with the develop 
ment of a system of right and duty. When I had felt compelled by 
increasing knowledge of nature to revise some of my traditional 
articles of religious faith, I was delighted to find that these changes 
had not modified in any essential respects my system of ethics. As I 
expressed it in my presidential address before tlie American Associa 
tion for the Advancement of Science in 1937: 

The ethics of science regards the search for truth as one of the highest 
duties of man; it regards noble human character as the finest product of 
evolution; it considers the service of all mankind as the universal good; 
it teaches that human nature and humane nurture may be improved, 
that reason may replace unreason, cooperation supplement competition, 
and the progress of the human race through future ages be promoted by 
intelligence and goodwill. 

In all these respects the ethics of science does not differ from the 
ethics of enlightened religion. The religion of science leaves to us 
faith in the highest ideals of ethics and in the possibility of their 
realization among all nations and peoples. Whatever the ultimate 
basis of ethics may be, whether divine commandments or the decent 

Edwin Grant Con^lin 75 

social habits of mankind, the content is much the same. Whether 
written on tables of stone or on the tablets of our hearts, the "cardinal 
virtues" are still virtues, the "deadly sins" are still skis, and the 
commands of a God without are no more binding than those of a 
God within. 

Scientists generally would agree, I think, that the faith and ideals 
of science include these articles: (i) Belief in the universality of that 
system of law and order known as nature. (2) Confidence that 
nature is intelligible and that by searching our knowledge of it may 
be increased. (3) Recognition of the fact that knowledge is relative, 
not absolute. (4) Realization that in unexplored fields we learn by 
trial and error, and finally trial and success. (5) The necessity of 
freedom, openmindedness, and sincerity in the search for truth. 
(6) Confidence that "truth is mighty and will prevail." (7) Realiza 
tion that truth cannot be established by compulsion nor permanently 
overcome by force. (8) Belief that the long course of evolution, which 
has led to man, society, intelligence, and ethics, is not finished, and 
that man can now take an intelligent part in his future progress. 5 

The great system of nature calls forth feelings of admiration and 
awe in all who explore it, but, alas, it does not equally call forth 
feelings of love and devotion. Its appeal is to the head rather than to 
the heart, to the intellect rather than to the emotions, and in this 
respect the religion of science fails to meet some of the greatest needs 
of men, for it is in the realm of the emotions, rather than in that of the 
intellect, that religion has its greatest practical value. Indeed, religion 
is not so much a system of philosophy as an inspiration and guide to 
action. True religion breathes into the realism of science the spirit 
of lofty idealism. It cultivates among all classes, races, and nations of 
men, justice, peace, and mutual service, and if it does not do this 
it belies the teaching and example of its greatest prophets. It was 
Matthew Arnold, I think, who said that conduct is two-thirds of 
life; I think it could be said that right conduct is the greater part of 
religion; for "faith without works is dead," and "he that loveth not 
his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has 
not seen?" 

5 Edwin G. Conklin, Man; Real and Ideal, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1943. 

76 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

Ideal personal religion is one of love, which begins with the love 
of those persons nearest and dearest to us, and is then extended to 
abstractions and ideals such as truth, beauty, goodness, God. The 
pantheistic God of science may command our awe, but scarcely our 
love. It is difficult if not impossible to love "Evolution" or the "Order 
of Nature." Men need ideals more human and personal, and for 
this reason, no doubt, great religions have glorified and sanctified 
ideal persons sages, heroes, martyrs, saints and have personified 
their highest ideals as deities Osiris, Ashur, Zeus, Brahma, Buddha. 
In the Christian religion these highest ideals are chiefly embodied in 
the persons of a Heavenly Father and a Divine Brother, Son of God 
and Son of Man, who bring into one family relation, so far as 
possible, the whole human race. 6 

These religious ideals go far beyond the teachings of science, but 
they are not for that reason to be rejected. Indeed, when one sees 
how such ideals are fitted to meet the desperate needs of men, one 
can only feel admiration and sympathy. No one can furnish scientific 
proof of the existence or nature of a divine plan in the fulfilment of 
which men may cooperate, but it is evident that such an ideal lends 
strength and courage to mortal men. Religious faith and ideals give 
the largest potential values to human life and the greatest stimulus to 
efforts for improvement. "By their fruits ye shall know them." 

6 Ibid. 


The line which divides narrative from argument is tenuous and 
vaguely drawn, even when the account is of actions performed 
publicly and of matters of record attested by independent witnesses. 
Soldiers who have completed their campaigns or withdrawn from 
them and politicans who have put policies into effect or have seen 
them defeated have often set down some form of history in the 
conviction, expressed by Thucydides, that an exact knowledge of 
the past is an aid to the interpretation of the future. 1 The line is 
tenuous, however, because history is frequently transformed into 
fiction under the influence of arguments constructed to square 
actions with principles, and the arguments are twisted by the events 
into sophistry. Accounts of adventures among things of the spirit 
are still more esoteric than military and political myths. Incidents, 
dates, and even protagonists, are not easily determined by external 
witnesses to the evolution of ideas. The narrative therefore tends to 
reassemble the parts of an argument in the chronological sequence of 
their development, and the agents in the action tend to become ideas 
in dialectical opposition. Narratives of action reveal the interdepend 
ence of the careers and destinies of men; narratives of inquiry and 
speculation bring men together in common ideas encountered and 
in the common efforts to interpret them. In the treatment of intellec 
tual and spiritual problems the individual mind is in contact with 
universal relations, and the grasp of a basic problem or the compre- 

1 Thucydides, i. 22. 


7 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

hension of a true idea is not an individual possession to be explained 
adequately by personal traits or prior history. On the other hand, 
the order of experience takes on a significance, usually unsuspected 
until a problem is resolved, when the stages of the experience are 
rearranged as steps in the discovery or proof of what is later conceived 
to be valuable or true. In spiritual biographies the protagonist properly 
tends to lose his personal identity and his actions tend to be separated 
from the local conditions and temporal circumstances, for, as 
Spinoza proved, "insofar as men live under the guidance of reason, 
thus far only they always necessarily agree in nature." 2 

Habits of philosophic analysis and historical research, consequently, 
although they might seem useful instruments adapted to the effort 
of interpreting the memory of past problems with which one has 
worked and the sequence of the stages by which one has become 
aware of their implications and the requirements of their solution, 
in fact inhibit interpretation and reconstruction by suggesting prior 
questions. The account of one man's difficulties in speculation about 
principles, in deliberation about means, and in inquiry about conse 
quences, is significant only if, on the one hand, the statement of his 
arguments has a bearing on ideas and aspirations as they are at once 
shared by other men of the time or tradition and involved in timeless 
principles or implications, and if, on the other hand, the account of 
the sequence of his efforts to clarify notions and achieve ideals con 
tributes to the clarification of universal thoughts and common actions. 
Conversely, a slight knowledge of philosophy and historical method 
is enough to suggest suspicions concerning much that purports to be 
narrative accounts of thought or action: history is often made by 
equipping developments in theory or practice with subjective motiva 
tions which might justify but did not cause them, or by stringing 
events on significances later discerned but unexpressed and unknown 
at the time of occurrence. 

The power and significance of autobiography and confession have 
their sources in these paradoxes, however much they may distress 
those who seek simple meanings of what is said and simple separa 
tions of the facts of narrative from the ideas of argument. The inter- 

2 Spinoza, Ethics, iv, 35. 

Richard McKeon 79 

dependence of actions and the interrelation of theory and fact tempt 
men to seek in the absolutes of independent empirical facts or eternal 
truths the significance of occurrences on which a life has touched and 
the developments which bind occurrences in a line of action or a 
growing insight. The actions of men are directed to satisfying like 
needs in like circumstances, and the thoughts of men encounter 
common matters and explore common patterns, yet the significance 
of the common and unchanged is rendered more intelligible by the 
circumstances and the changes that led to its expression in the partic 
ular manner of one person, one period, and one mingling of tradi 
tions. Doubtless motives may be manifest in any autobiographical 
account other than those recounted by the writer, and principles of 
selection operate in the determination of what occurrences should be 
chosen and emphasized, even in an account of speculation and 
inquiry other than the emergence of common problems and the 
clarification of universal ideas. The significance of the narrative can 
be sought in the delineation of a person and the circumstances of his 
times and culture, as well as in his approximations to ideas which 
influence many men and many times. Yet the reasons for writing 
about the circumstances which influenced one's thoughts and about 
the processes and events in which they were involved, can be only 
that the significance of thoughts, which is broader than the occur 
rences of one man's life, can be grasped concretely only in the 
particularities of expression and implication which are parts of 
biography, rather than of metaphysics or logic. 

These considerations have determined the selection of autobio 
graphical arguments which are presented in what follows. I have 
been concerned successively, for three rather long periods, with three 
problems which are problems of our times, or more nearly accurately, 
three approaches which our times have made to problems of universal 
scope and to truths of universal significance problems of philosophic 
scholarship, of educational practice and administration, and of inter 
national and intercultural relations. Viewed in retrospect, these three 
problems seem so closely interrelated and interdependent that they 
may be described more nearly accurately as three approaches to the 
same problem. The same considerations, therefore, suggest that the 

So Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

narrative should run in the reverse of the chronological order, for 
the significances which I attach to events as I retell them were usually 
later additions, not recognized at the time. It is doubtless true that a 
man's characteristic attitudes are determined at an early age, long 
before the philosophic vocabulary which is later used to express 
them is available, but even if an autobiographer limited himself to 
such evidence as he could find concerning those first few years of 
his life and to the interpretations of his later life which his psy 
chological or psychosomatic vocabulary permitted, those principles 
by which he arranges his narrative are themselves late acquisitions, 
grounded in philosophic presuppositions, as well as in psychological 
facts. The adjustments of the human organism are doubtless ex 
plained by basic principles, but those. principles are discovered and 
tested by the human organism: the principles and attitudes that 
might be found in any such theory in what I have said would serve 
to characterize me, but I have been impressed by the recurrent con 
viction that the significant part of what I know in relation to what I 
do, always has been acquired during the past year, and my narrative 
is therefore of the process and not of the fixities by which it may 
have been conditioned. The story would, moreover, be better told 
backwards, if that were possible, for the beginning of an argument is 
its principles, and the principles emerge later in the evolution, but 
as it is impossible to present the narrative as argument, I shall try at 
least to distinguish the occurrences and later significances attached 
to them from the vantage point of some turning at which the two 
may be put in perspective. 


The First World War was such a vantage point. I returned to my 
studies at Columbia University in 1919. The interruption of the 
war had been slight, for I had been assigned in the Naval Reserves 
to the Student Army Training Corps established at Columbia during 
the last months of the war. But I had been a "preprofessional" 
student before the war, engaged first on a program of studies designed 
to prepare for the law and later on a pre-engineering program; my 

Richard McKeon 81 

further training in the Navy had been for engineering. Like many 
other returning students I found that my interests had shifted to 
humanistic studies, and for the next few years I read literature, 
history, philosophy, and the classics. In 1920, I wrote a thesis for the 
Master of Arts degree in which I studied Tolstoi, Croce, and 
Santayana, as expressions of three modern approaches to art and 
literature, and explored the relations and possible conciliation of 
esthetic phenomena conceived in terms of moral influences, esthetic 
experience, and scientific or psychological explanations. In retrospect 
I think the center of my interest was in the relation of esthetic values 
to science and to morality and in the methods appropriate to investi 
gate in the art object the esthetic qualities of the object, the scientific 
foundations of the esthetic experience, and the moral and political 
implications of the creation of art and its influences. I was later to 
be impressed both by the need of new interpretations in art and 
morals because of developments in science and technology, and also 
by the danger of superficial and insubstantial analogies between the 
scientific method and the processes of moral deliberation and esthetic 

These purposes can be found in the thesis, but the recognition and 
statement of them is doubtless a later addition. The thesis also 
shows the marks of a more complete and systematic philosophy than 
I have been able to develop since 1920. The main outlines of the 
philosophy were determined (I thought), and it stood in need only of 
application to the varieties of problems of philosophy and related 
fields. The three chief ingredients of which it was composed were a 
scientific basis in behaviorism to account for how we think and how 
we act, a normative criterion in pragmatism to determine the 
meaningful problems of philosophy and the marks of truth and 
value by which to solve them, and a symbolic system by which to 
achieve precision in analysis and statement. It was a highly satis 
factory philosophy, because it could be applied to a succession of 
subject matters and problems with little need of adjustment and with 
only a minimum of knowledge of the particular subject matter to 
which it was to be accommodated. I have never since been able to 
achieve comparable scope of system or convenience of method, but 

82 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

experience with later generations of students has kept me in contact 
with the later forms of that philosophy. In all its forms it combines 
a foundation borrowed from some science, a system of explanation 
couched in a technical vocabulary, and a ready applicability in the 
same form to all problems. Struggles with the simple distinctions of 
such philosophies usually raise doubts in their originators concerning 
the ideals to which they are directed. They led me by indirect ways 
to an interest in the vast diversity of problems which tends to be con 
cealed in the simplifications, the unifications, and the analogies 
conceived in the name of philosophy and in the diversified adaptation 
of methods to materials and problems which tends to be forgotten 
in the hunt for formal precision and symbolic elegance. 

The influence of science and of social and economic changes on 
philosophy and the determination of philosophic principles of 
scientific inquiry and social action seem in retrospect to have been 
the dominant interests during my graduate work in philosophy. The 
problems of scientific method and its metaphysical implications were 
prominent in the philosophic literature and in the philosophy courses 
of the early 1920$. These inquiries led me back to readings in the 
philosophers of the seventeenth century who had engaged in highly 
elaborated and diversified efforts to apply the scientific method to 
man and to human actions and to interpret what is entailed in the 
scientific approach. I was influenced in this exploration of present 
implications of science and past speculations concerning it chiefly by 
Frederick J. E. Woodbridge and John Dewey. Woodbridge helped 
and guided me in my study of Hobbes, Spinoza, and Locke, and 
was quizzically tolerant of the enthusiasms I discovered for Descartes, 
Leibnitz, and Boyle. I learned from Woodbridge to find philosophic 
problems, not in the massive oppositions of systems and in the rival 
propositions certified by technical analyses, but in the simple occur 
rences of everyday life from which the dilemmas of philosophic 
disputation are derived. The operations of the mind, so conceived, 
encounter the elements of order even in their most arbitrary decisions, 
and the intelligible structure of the universe is encountered in the 
exploration of ideas derived from experience. Most of all I learned 
from Woodbridge to respect the integrity of philosophic thought and 

Richard McKeon 83 

to hold tenaciously to the assumption that what philosophers said 
made sense, even when I had difficulty grasping it, and that what 
philosophers meant might be comparable or even identical, despite 
differences in their modes of expression. Dewey had just returned 
from a long visit to the Far East and offered two courses in which 
he related the diversities of philosophic systems and methods to his 
own mode of philosophizing. From Dewey I learned to seek the 
significance of philosophic positions in the problems they were con 
structed to solve, to suspect distinctions and separations which re 
move the processes of thinking from the experience in which they 
originated, and to relate the formulation of problems and the dis 
covery of solutions to the cultural influences which determined the 
manner of their occurrence. 

My Ph. D. dissertation was a study of Spinoza which took its begin 
ning in Spinoza's conception of scientific method in philosophy and 
of the use of reason in the resolution of moral problems. The argu 
ments of Spinoza contained refutations of conceptions of the nature 
of science, and the application of scientific knowledge to moral and 
political problems which I had previously accepted without question. 
His analysis of scientific method is developed in a long correspond 
ence in opposition to Boyle in which he argues against false empiri 
cisms (as elsewhere he demolishes verbal scholasticisms) contending 
that experience alone can never refute a theory, because contrary 
evidence can lead either to the abandonment or the modification of 
the theory, and experimentation alone can never give knowledge of 
the fundamental nature of things or of basic scientific law. His use 
of method in moral problems can be studied in the massive attempt 
of his Ethics to treat the problems of action and passion in more 
geometrico and to provide precise mathematical proofs of moral 
theorems, but he argued that knowledge has no direct effect in the 
control of the passions and the motivations to knowledge. Irration 
ality can be controlled and the operations of nature can be under 
stood, precisely because the universe is by nature intelligible. 

Yet even when I had come to some understanding of this view of 
scientific method and its applications to morals, I was puzzled by its 
relation to the other parts of Spinoza's philosophic work. In his own 

84 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

time Spinoza was criticized as an atheist; during the eighteenth 
century Lessing, Jacobi, Herder, and Goethe found inspiration in 
his conception o God, nature, and human existence; in the nine 
teenth century, the great physiologist and comparative anatomist, 
Johannes Peter Mueller, thought it impossible to improve on 
Spinoza's analysis of the passions, and reprinted in his Elements of 
Physiology the aphorisms on the passions in the third book of the 
Ethics. It is an accurate rough description of the influence of Spinoza 
that its focus moved with the centuries down the sequence of the 
books of the Ethics centering "On God" in the seventeenth century, 
"On the Nature and Origin of the Mind" in the eighteenth century, 
and on "The Origin and Nature of the Emotions" in the nineteenth 
century. In the twentieth century the moral and political problems 
involved in "The Strength of the Emotions" came to new attention 
in interpretations which are not always consistent with the conception 
of God developed in the first book or the conception of "The Power 
of the Intellect" expounded in the fifth book of the Ethics? I 
realized only later that the problems I encountered in Spinoza were 
twentieth century problems and that the Spinoza who influenced my 
thinking was neither the Spinoza criticized by Leibnitz nor the 
Spinoza admired by Goethe or Mueller. The application of scientific 
method to moral problems seemed to me to involve him in two 
difficulties, the first in relating the knowledge of man and his 
passions to nature and its processes by means of God and His attri 
butes, and the second in separating the methods and controls of 
politics from those of ethics. My dissertation explored the unity of 
Spinoza's thought both in the natural bases which permitted the 
application of the geometric method to nature and to man, and in 
the differentiation of the purposes and methods of religion and 
politics from those of scientific analysis and morals. 

8 Cf. R. A. Duff, Spinoza's Political and Ethical Philosophy, Robert MacLehose & 
Co., Ltd., Glasgow, 1903, pp. 8-9 and C. D. Broad, Five Types of Ethical Theory, 
Harcourt, Brace & Co., Inc., New York, 1930, p. 15: "Before I begin to expound 
Spinoza's ethical theory I must state that I shall ignore everything in his system 
which depends on what he calls Scicntia Intuitiva or the Third Kind of Knowledge; 
i.c., I shall ignore his doctrines of the Intellectual Love of God, of Human Blessedness, 
and of the Eternity of the Human Mind." 

Richard McKeon 5 

From 1922 to 1925 I studied in Paris, spending the summers travel 
ing in Europe and working in the libraries which determined in part 
the itinerary of the cities I visited. Much of what I have said about 
the direction of my earlier graduate studies should doubtless be dated 
during these three years, for they gave perspective to what I had 
done, both because I was able to place the traditions in thought of 
which I had become aware in the United States in the context of the 
European traditions from which they were derived, and because I 
was able to push further back my examination of the historical origins 
of the ideas and problems with which I had been concerned. Sensed 
differences in attitudes, purposes, and ideas encountered in different 
times, places, and formulations, are easily converted into myths, which 
have the kind of truth that is recognized in jokes about national 
characteristics. The student of philosophy can hardly avoid being im 
pressed by tantalizing similarities of idea, expression, and purpose, 
even in philosophic discussions distantly removed, in space or time, 
from those with which he is familiar; but even in those which are 
close in origin and influence, the similar purposes are differently 
achieved, the similar expressions have different meanings, and the 
similar ideas appear in different uses and contexts. 

My studies in French philosophy were inseparable from my dis 
covery of America. I had learned that Francis Bacon was the first 
modern philosopher and that he had first inquired into the organiza 
tion of the new sciences and formulated the methods by which they 
were acquired; I now learned that Rene Descartes was the first 
modern philosopher and that his inquiry into method and into the 
foundations of the sciences were the beginnings of modern philos 
ophy. The philosophic movements which engaged the attention of 
students in the United States at that time were forms of realism and 
pragmatism constructed in revolt against idealism; philosophers like 
Henri Bergson and Leon Brunschvicg were engaged on like problems 
in revolt against absolute idealism but I found, to my amazement, 
that they were idealists notwithstanding their congenial approach to 
familiar problems. In that different climate of doctrines I became 
aware of characteristic American attitudes toward ideas a tolerance 
of diversity of ideas, an absence of ideological marks of class differ- 

86 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

ences, and an attachment to the method and application of the sci 
ences. The tradition of liberalism in the United States was the expres 
sion not merely of a tolerance of differences of doctrines, but of a 
confidence that truth is tested in the commerce of ideas and that 
values are derived from diversity; and when tolerance had been lack 
ing in the growth of America there had been the physical space in 
which to move away from intolerance. Doctrinal differences had con 
sequently become too numerous and complex to be organized into 
parties or to be made the mark of classes. When philosophies were 
constructed, they tended to claim relevance to present and actual 
conditions and to borrow examples and authority from scientific 
method. These attitudes gave a concrete pertinence to American 
philosophic speculation from the first, but they also exposed it to the 
dangers of that variety of intellectual and practical provincialism 
which results from employing principles insufficiently examined in 
relation to what other men have thought and done. Indifference to 
ideas may then pass as tolerance of diversity, and relativity of values 
may be substituted for the disposition to refuse to accept standards 
without further test merely because they are traditional. The absence 
of classes and parties based on differences or professed differences of 
ideas and ideals may invite t:he development of classes based on 
oligarchial differences and of parties based on economic differences. 
The cultivation of scientific method and real problems may be the 
excuse for the neglect of truths that have been discovered and of 
errors that have been exposed, and for the affectation of that spritely 
freshness of insight in which every philosopher recapitulates in his 
own person the whole history of thought. 

Study in Paris provided the perspective not only of the approach 
characteristic of another culture to common philosophic ideas and 
problems, but also of the historical insight into the development of 
those ideas and the formation of those problems. The study of moral 
problems in their relation to scientific method and to social and polit 
ical influences, had led me back to the first efforts of modern philos 
ophers to treat those problems in the seventeenth century, and I had 
found in the study of those philosophers both the insight into later 
problems which comes from knowledge o their earlier forms and 

Richard McKeon 8j 

the insight into methods of analysis and resolution which comes 
from the rediscovery of alternative forgotten methods. But I also 
found much in their writings which was unintelligible and opaque 
without further historical study. I therefore worked with Brunschvicg 
on Spinoza and on the intellectual movements of which he was part. 
Brunschvicg had already published his study of the stages of develop 
ment of mathematical philosophy, and he had begun to apply the 
same methods to the study of physical causality, moral conscience, 
and like concepts. I learned from Brunschvicg to use the historical 
development of concepts as part of the analysis of current problems in 
their interrelations in large departments of philosophy. I studied 
Descartes, Malebranche, and medieval philosophy with fitienne Gil- 
son. My explorations of the background of Spinoza's philosophy had 
already brought me into contact with currents of medieval thought. 
My three years in Paris gave me the opportunity to study medieval 
philosophers more systematically and to become interested in par 
ticular in the twelfth century background of Abelard and the four 
teenth century context of Ockham and I learned from Gilson to 
trace the basic patterns and unity of philosophic thought through 
the diversity of philosophic systems and expressions. Even before 
my medieval studies it had become apparent that Western thought is 
unintelligible without its Greek foundations. I therefore worked with 
Leon Robin on Plato and Aristotle, and learned from him philological 
and philosophical methods of interpreting the text and the structure 
of philosophic arguments. My indebtedness to these great teachers 
and the many others whose lectures I attended can hardly be summed 
up in a few sentences, and I suspect that I am unable to disentangle 
what I learned from the uses to which I put it, or to separate the 
ideas I was conscious of from the subtle modifications which the 
whole changed context of life worked in them. The interrelations of 
cultures must affect increasingly the developments of thought and its 
, effective application, but life in Paris in the early 19205 cannot be ren 
dered adequately in purely practical or intellectual terms. 

I returned to New York in 1925 and taught philosophy at Colum 
bia University for the next ten years. After the normal apprenticeship 
of teaching numerous courses in logic and introduction to philosophy, 

88 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

my teaching was divided between the history o philosophy and 
philosophic analysis. My historical courses concentrated on the Philos 
ophy of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and my analytic 
courses, which were offered under the titles, "Metaphysics and Sci 
ence" and "Metaphysics and Method," were devoted to the examina 
tion of the basic presuppositions and philosophic principles of the 
natural sciences, of the moral and social sciences, and of art and 
criticism. As I discussed these problems with my students and as I 
wrote about those portions of them in which the pattern of relations 
was clearest, I was brought to the conclusion that the startingpoint of 
philosophic discussion in our times must be the consideration of the 
vast diversity of analyses that have been made, and that are still 
being made, of problems which have a recognizable continuity, 
despite changes, revolutions, and new discoveries. There is a tend 
ency in American philosophy to seek basic principles in operations 
or in linguistic forms of expression rather than in the nature of things 
or in the categories of thought. But the analysis tends to be of opera 
tions abstractly conceived, rather than of actual operations which 
define ideas in the context of associated ideas in cultures or systems 
and in relation to the subject matter to which they apply; or alter 
nately it is an analysis of the forms of hypothetical pure languages, 
rather than the actual languages developed by men associated in cul 
tures and engaged in the solution of practical and theoretic problems. 
The treatment of ideas and systems as functions of cultures and of 
intellectual methods and the exploration of the patterns of their ex 
pression in a kind of historical intellectual semantics have, therefore, 
seemed to me an important propaedeutic to the treatment of philo 
sophic problems as such, and a defense against the shallow construc 
tion of patterns of culture which dispense with ideas, except as illus 
trative of cultural relations and of formal semantics which dispense 
with problems, except as consequent on the theory of language. 

I have found that I returned often in these studies to the works of 
three philosophers whose speculations are explicit about the unity 
which they sought and about the distinctions which are important in 
the discovery of that unity. Aristotle found the basis of philosophy in 
experience, and sought to avoid the idealism of Plato and the ma- 

Richard McKeon Sp 

terialism of Democritus; to that end he distinguished theoretic, prac 
tical, and productive sciences. Spinoza found the unity of knowledge 
and of things in Substance, God, or Nature, and sought to avoid the 
verbal explanations of Scholasticism (which he traced back to the 
tradition of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, as opposed to the tradition 
of Democritus, Epicurus, and Lucretius) and the constructions of 
"empirics and recent philosophers"; to that end he distinguished 
ethics, religion, and politics. Dewey found the unity of inquiry in 
experience, not as an epistemological beginning, but as the common 
cultural source of philosophic problems, and fought to avoid those 
abstractions from experience and nature which are embalmed in ideas 
constructed to solve problems of other cultures and times; to that 
end he distinguished problems, cultures, and forms of association. 
The problems which are presented in reconciling the truths of these 
three denials and assertions might as easily be approached from other 
beginnings, for the traditions of philosophy come to life in the debate 
concerning basic principles to order the whole range of philosophic 
problems in which each position is based on the denial of previous 
distinctions. The discovery of truth and the establishment of meaning 
are both dependent historically on the doctrines which become false 
or meaningless in the orientation of the new doctrine, and despite the 
impatience of practical men and dogmatists, there is fortunately no 
way to halt the eternal philosophic dialogue about things, knowledge, 
and systems. 


During the early 19305 I met Robert Maynard Hutchins and dis 
cussed education in America with him, touching on both the prob 
lems of general education in the colleges and of the higher learning 
in the graduate schools. Among other questions, we talked about the 
relation of history to philosophy the applications of history to the 
development of knowledge in the history of ideas and the application 
of philosophy to historical processes in the philosophy of history. I 
went to The University of Chicago as Visiting Professor of History 
in 1934-1935, to give a course in the intellectual history of Western 

go Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

Europe and a seminar in the philosophy of history, and I stayed on 
as Dean of the Division of the Humanities and as Professor of Greek 
and Philosophy. During my twelve years as Dean, from 1935 to 1947, 
I was able to take part in the replanning of humanistic studies in 
general education in the College, as well as to cooperate with the de 
partments in the reorganization of graduate work in the humanities. 

The problem of the humanities in the present world is compounded 
of several dislocations which extend into many of the compartments 
of contemporary life the readjustment of values to altered condi 
tions and circumstances, the readjustment of methods of inquiry to 
the data and methods of science, and the readjustment of conceptions 
of the place of the humanities in education and life to changed philo 
sophic presuppositions. During the period between the two World 
Wars there was widespread agreement concerning both the predica 
ment of the humanities and the contribution which humanistic 
studies normally make to a well rounded education in a mature civili 
zation; but there was little agreement concerning what the humanities 
are, or concerning what should be done to improve their condition 
and to put them to the uses of which they are capable. Yet it seemed 
probable that the predicament of the humanities could be traced to 
a circle of interrelated causes the failure to recognize the contribu 
tion of the humanities to civilization and the consequent construction 
of a civilization in which the place of humanistic values is attenuated; 
when accomplishment is marked by accumulation and value by place, 
humanistic studies offer less obvious attractions to young students 
than the precisions and effects of scientific studies or the utilities and 
problems of social studies; and, as cause or consequence in such cir 
cumstances, methods of teaching and inquiry vacillate between the 
irrelevant technicalities of tested traditional methods and the irrele 
vant innovations borrowed from fashionable sciences and technol 

At The University of Chicago, graduate studies are organized in 
four divisions under the Physical Sciences, the Biological Sciences, 
the Social Sciences, and the Humanities. This organization facilitates 
the assumption that the methods of the humanities are distinct from 
those of the natural and the social sciences in the treatment of subject 

Richard McKeon 91 

matters and problems whose close interrelations are reflected in the 
affirmations and negations of philosophers concerning the separa 
tions and identities o the parts of our knowledge and behavior. Dur 
ing the early years of my work as Dean, members of the faculty of the 
Division of the Humanities met in committees, in small informal 
groups, and in divisional meetings to discuss the common disciplines 
which unite the various departments of languages, literatures, art, 
music, history, and philosophy in the Division. Out of those discus 
sions there came an agreement that studies in the humanities should 
be conceived in relation to two bases a material basis in the knowl 
edge of a culture, a time, and a subject matter; and a disciplinary basis 
in the practice of methods of inquiry and criticism, and in the 
insights essential to their practice. The traditional separation of 
humanistic studies into departments such as English, Romance, 
Germanic, Oriental languages and literature, into Music, Art, History, 
Linguistics, and Philosophy, is token of the importance of command 
of the materials essential to humanistic studies in any given field 
of culture. The faculty decided that that organization was funda 
mentally sound, provided the methods and disciplinary approaches 
to the materials were broad and relevant to humanistic objectives. In 
order to maintain what is important in such specialized knowledge 
and yet prevent the fragmentation of the humanistic enterprise, they 
set up four interdepartmental committees to operate in much the 
way departments operate in preparing programs of study and pre 
senting students for higher degrees in the four disciplines practiced 
in varying ways in all the departments : in language, history, criticism, 
and philosophy. These four disciplines cross the departmental lines, 
and the organization of the committees permits a student in Lan 
guage and Communication, in History of Culture, in Comparative 
Studies in Art and Literature, and in the Analysis of Ideas and the 
Study of Methods to take work which involves several languages and 
symbolic systems, or a variety of cultures and times, or a variety of 
critical systems and literatures, or the bearing of philosophic analyses 
on a variety of subjects. Moreover, the interdepartmental work of 
the committees was calculated to bring greater breadth into the de 
partmental work, while the cooperation of the departments in the 

92 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

work of the committees would serve the purpose of avoiding the 
vague and tenuous generalities which so frequently remain as the 
only mark that comparative studies in literature, history, and phi 
losophy retain from the universal ambitions which motivate them. 

The close relation of the humanities to the social sciences and to 
the natural sciences, as well as the characteristic differences of the 
methods employed in humanistic studies on materials which may 
fall also under the scrutiny of the sciences, become less difficult to 
discern when they are considered in respect to the disciplines of the 
humanities. Literature and the arts have their uses as data in the 
social sciences, and in those uses they are sources of information con 
cerning cultures and peoples. Literature and art are also expressions 
'of truths about nature, man, and the cosmos, and the continuity of 
human knowledge is marked in the inspiration Copernicus found 
in Cicero and Freud in Sophocles, no less than in the stimulation 
Lucretius derived from Epicurus, Hume from Newton, and Dewey 
from Darwin. But literature and the arts may be studied for the 
values which they embody, as well as for the light they may throw on 
the manners and ideas of men. Times and cultural circumstances 
facilitate the recovery of meanings expressed by men in other tradi 
tions and places, but the discovery and appreciation of values in the 
creations and expressions of men present problems other than solely 
the recovery of what they meant. The same times produce good and 
bad art and the same intentions are well and badly expressed. The 
study of the arts for the world- view they embody, or for information 
about the circumstances in which they were produced, and the study 
of art as embodiments of esthetic values, are supplementary inquiries 
into related aspects of human activities. 

In like fashion, the study of language may be approached by 
inquiry into the physical and physiological bases of speech, or into 
the history of the development of languages and their uses in the 
^communities and civilizations of men, or into the effectiveness of their 
employment for particular ends of expression. Anthropological 
linguistics has developed a technique for recording the modes of 
expression in different tribes and peoples and in different circum 
stances; humanistic linguistics adapts its techniques to the examina- 

Richard McKeon 93 

tion of the employment of language in rhetoric, literature, science, 
and other modes of expression. The diversity of linguistic patterns 
revealed in the one approach and the normative standards discovered 
in the other are not rival hypotheses between which the linguist must 
choose, but supplementary considerations to be brought to bear on the 
problems of languages. History, likewise, presents dimensions in the 
succession of geological ages, the evolution of animals, the marks 
which astronomical and meteorological phenomena have left on the 
planets and the surface of the earth and in the theoretic relations of 
time and space, which are properly treated in the natural sciences. 
The reconstruction and interpretation of social, political, economic, 
and cultural conditions and changes require techniques and theories 
which are devised in the social sciences. The history of art, music, 
literature, philosophy and the development of ideas, theories and 
values reflect the evolutions of nature and the circumstances of man, 
but the reconstruction and interpretation of the history of thought 
and expression depend on knowledge of those forms and ideas, and 
that history is the context in which theories about nature and man 
are developed. Philosophy, finally, is one form of knowledge, pro 
foundly affected by the development of the sciences and by their 
methods; it reflects the interests of times, peoples, and cultures in 
which it develops; its proper domain is the principles and the system 
atic relations of explanations of things and their processes, men and 
their communities, and values and their expressions. 

Concern with the predicament of the humanities in the world today 
is both part and consequence of reflection on the humanistic aspects of 
culture. The appreciation of art, literature, history, religion, and 
philosophy is one of the characteristic marks of a great civilization, 
and in the West the humanists have in various ages contributed to 
that appreciation by study of the tradition of art and learning. The 
humanists in Rome and in the Renaissance were able to adapt the 
knowledge of the past creatively to the formation of new cultures 
relative to new circumstances and new needs. The success of human 
ism depends on that double achievement the perception of values 
as broad as humanity, and the expression of values in the living 
idiom of a people. Conversely, humanistic studies face two dangers in 

94 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

any period the danger of debasement when the press of problems, 
the growth of tensions, and the confusion of education obscure com 
mon values, and the danger of obsolescence when the cultivation of 
traditional values and learned disciplines is removed from relevance 
to present situations and problems. 

The problems of the humanities in scholarship and in the higher 
learning are closely related to the problems of the humanities in 
general education in the colleges. The problem of general education 
is basically the problem of establishing a common basis of under 
standing and communication which is the particular need of a 
democratic community. The determination of the contents of courses 
in the humanities in collegiate education, is part of the problem of 
constructing with a view to the ideal that the opportunity will one 
day be open to all young people to continue their studies beyond the 
high school an education for individual development, for citizen 
ship, and for the utilities and amenities of common life. The solu 
tion to that problem determines, in turn,, the preparation which 
students will have if they choose to go on to further studies in the 
humanities, and consequently the form which higher studies and 
research will take. At the College of The University of Chicago, work 
was in progress to revise the content of education for the new four 
year degree of Bachelor of Arts, which had been constructed on the 
basis of a division of education into six years of elementary education, 
four years of secondary education, and four years of collegiate educa 
tion, instead of the customary division into eight, four, and four years. 
In the new scheme a student normally receives the A.B. at the age 
of eighteen or nineteen, and the program of more specialized work in 
one of the departments for the degree of Master of Arts becomes a 
three year program, instead of the nominal one year allotted to such 
training under older schemes. Having participated in the Division 
of the Humanities in the planning for that enlarged M.A. training, 
I was glad to accept the invitation of the College to take an active 
part in planning and teaching in the new program of the College. 
The program for the A.B. was conceived as a common program for 
all students in the College, divided into courses according to the 
major divisions of subject matters and disciplines, and tested by 

Richard McKeon 95 

objective comprehensive examinations based on the field rather than 
the peculiarities of courses or instructors. My own work on the 
program was in two courses, the general Humanities course and the 
Integration course. 

The committee which planned the course of studies in the humani 
ties approached its problem by discussing the general question of the 
place which humanistic studies should occupy in contemporary 
education. The functions and uses of the humanities, in turn, in 
volved the committee in searching considerations of the nature of the 
humanities and the methods proper to study and teaching of the 
humanities. A one year general course in the humanities was re 
quired of all students of the College, as part of the "New Plan" 
which had been put into effect in the early 19305. This was a pioneer 
ing course, and it is widely influential in American education and 
indeed it is still frequently the basis of what is said, in criticism and 
in praise, about the Chicago course in the humanities, in spite of the 
radical changes of the 19405. It was a good course, but it raised many 
problems, among which one had a recurrent and fundamental char 
acter. The course followed the historical sequence of artistic, cultural, 
and intellectual developments in the Western world, and the human 
istic disciplines required for the appreciation and interpretation of 
arts, letters, and philosophy, tended to be lost in the story, while the 
story tended to be accepted uncritically. It could be argued that 
education should provide a training in the humanistic disciplines, as 
well as in the disciplines required for the understanding of the 
historical developments by which values and their environing cir 
cumstances evolved. The committee therefore recommended that 
two courses be planned one in history and one in the humanities 
and that a close relation be maintained between the history course and 
the general courses in the humanities, as well as the social sciences, 
and the natural sciences, by referring the materials and methods 
treated in those courses to their historical contexts and to the condi 
tioning influences of historical times and movements. The problem 
of constructing a humanities course, when it is separated from 
questions of "covering" the history of art, literature, and philosophy, 
is the problem of determining the contribution which the humanities 

<)6 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

might make to contemporary life, and, therefore, the problem of 
making available to students and to the times such benefits as might 
come from knowledge of men's great achievements. 

It would be dubious history even beyond the autobiographical 
license of reading theories later conceived into the development of 
earlier actions to attribute to the group that discussed the plans for 
the humanities course any large consensus concerning the nature and 
the present purposes of the humanities. In the course of discussion I 
urged three objectives: the development in the student of taste and 
broad acquaintance with the arts, literature, history, and philosophy, 
sufficient to direct his interests and afford guidance into the rich 
satisfactions and improvements which exploration in these fields 
might afford; the formation of the abilities which are necessary to the 
recognition and appreciation of artistic, cultural, and intellectual 
values, as opposed to the random associated reflections which fre 
quently accompany the attentive attitude and proper remarks that 
pass for appreciation; and, finally, the analytical abilities needed to 
integrate taste and interest, on the one hand, and critical judgment 
and discrimination, on the other hand, into the context of the 
principles philosophic and social, theoretic and practical which 
are particularized in the character and attitudes of a man, and 
universalized in the philosophies and cultural communities men 

In my opinion those three purposes have served to signalize 
objectives that might be attributed to the parts of the three year 
course in the humanities which grew out of the planning started in 
that early committee. The first year of the course was devoted to 
bringing the student to a broad acquaintance with literature, music, 
and the visual arts, and with the basic problems involved in their 
interpretation. The second year concentrated on the problems of 
literature, in the broad sense in which it includes, not only belles- 
lettres but history, philosophy, rhetoric, and like forms of expression, 
and undertook to explore, not the historical sequences or the spirit of 
ages, peoples, or writers, but the questions which the critical reader 
should learn to ask concerning particular kinds of works or concern- 
Ing particular aspects of all works: in respect to history, questions 

Richard McKeon 97- 

concerning the adequacy of the narrative, representation, or argument 
to particular facts; in respect to rhetoric, questions concerning the 
adjustment of forms of statement and argument to particular audi 
ences, and their effectiveness, and value; in respect to philosophy ,, 
questions concerning the principles and the development of argu 
ments; and in respect to appreciation and criticism, questions bearing 
on the forms of dramas, novels, lyric poems, the utilization and 
expression in them of the tensions and aspirations of men, and the 
communication they afford and effect to the spirit of men. These 
questions were raised in a succession of readings in works of history,, 
rhetoric, philosophy, drama, novels, and lyric poetry, and the student 
was trained, not in reciting a dogmatic humanism or philosophy of 
culture, but in framing and considering the questions which are 
presented to a critical mind by the varieties of forms, contents, and 
proposed values. Once he had learned to consider historical questions 
relative to works of history, philosophic questions relative to works 
of philosophy, and esthetic questions relative to poetry, drama, and 
fiction, he was expected to venture also into the tangled intermingling 
of questions which constitutes much of the literature of criticism 
and appreciation, by treating philosophy as poetry or history, ex 
ploring poetry as metaphor, argument, or ritual, and transforming 
history into a metaphysics of cultures, an appendage to scientific 
theories borrowed from thermodynamics or evolution, or a dialectic 
with poetic, scientific, or religious overtones. During the third year 
the student returned to the study of musical and visual, as well as- 
literary arts, to treat them in the light of critical principles as they 
apply to individual works, as they relate works to men and times,, 
fashions and tastes, or enjoyments and uses, and as they integrate 
life, expression, and community in basic philosophic forms. 

The program of general education in the College was developed in 
the various fields by planning and discussion similar to that which 
led to the formation of the three year course in the humanities, and 
the program consisted, therefore, of courses which the student would 
normally take in preparation for the comprehensive examinations, 
constructed to test whether he had the abilities and information 
which are the marks of the possession of a general education. The 

9# Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

interrelations of the parts of such an education seemed to the faculty 
to deserve particular attention, and an "integration" course, to be 
taken in the last year of work, was therefore included in the plans of 
the program. I was a member of the committee which worked out 
the curriculum of this integration course. The objectives of the 
course are briefly adumbrated in the title "Observation, Interpreta 
tion, and Integration/* which was attached to it in the early stages of 
faculty discussion. The committee began by considering the various 
ways in which the parts of knowledge might be integrated: they 
might be fitted together in an inclusive and neutral frame in an 
encyclopedic manner; their interrelations might be found in the 
fashion in which they could be put to applications in life in a practical 
manner; or their integration might take the form of the development 
of a systematic view of the organic unity of experience and the world 
in a philosophic manner. A general education, however, does not 
depend on encyclopedic knowledge, but on a framework of informa 
tion and acquaintance with the uses and checks of available sources 
of information. The practical applications of general education, 
moreover, are not something separate from education, to be simulated 
in classroom reconstruction of cases or in field tours of regions, and 
the philosophy required for a general education should take the 
form of insight into relations among the parts of experience and 
knowledge, rather than of deductions from doctrines or dogmas. The 
committee concluded that integration in a general education must 
come from critical awareness applied to what had been acquired as 
knbwledge and belief, and from the will and ability to explore the 
grounds and interrelations of what is known or thought to be 
known, to estimate intellectual and practical consequences, and to 
judge the criteria used in such inquiries. Such an integration would 
also provide the skills by which to accomplish and test encyclopedic, 
practical, and philosophic integrations. 

^ The student comes to the end of his four years of collegiate educa 
tioneven in the new programs of colleges in which "general" 
courses are constructed to facilitate his contact with large areas of 
experience and knowledge with a number of large subject matters 
and the variety of methods related to them adjusted somewhat 

Richard McKeon 99 

haphazardly in his habitual attitudes and modes of explanation. The 
adjustment of these parts of knowledge, habit, and attitude is the 
problem of "interpretation" in the large sense in which personal 
attitudes and knowledge are arranged, often unconsciously, accord 
ing to fundamental preferences and basic sciences and ultimately 
referred for explanation to precepts of psychology, sociology, or 
economics, to theology, physics, folklore, or literary taste. The student 
is made aware of the problems of interpretation and their ramifica 
tions by studying the ways in which such adjustments have been 
made and have been justified in the "Organization of the Sciences" 
in the first term of the course. The unity of the sciences, the diversity 
of the sciences, the relations of theory and practice, the metaphysical 
examination of the principles of sciences, the reduction of sciences to 
their physical elements, to their logical, psychological, and episte- 
mological forms, to their social and political conditions, the influence 
of the natural sciences on logic and ethics, of ethics on politics, and 
of politics on logic and science, form part of the patterns in which 
the sciences have fallen. 

This formal interplay among the parts of knowledge and the 
varieties of unity which have been found in the sciences or imposed 
on them, is usually established or rejected by appeal to the facts. What 
is known and what is believed are tested by experience and by the 
consequences of action in accordance with the tenets of knowledge 
and belief. The problems of "observation," conceived in a krge sense, 
turn on the relation of knowledge to facts, and on the variety of 
methods employed to relate what passes for knowledge to what 
passes for facts, and to achieve in statements of fact precision, gen 
erality, and relevance. The student is brought to the problems of 
the discovery of facts and their adjustments to theory, in the study 
of the "Methods of the Sciences" in the second term of the course. 
The methods and data of mathematics, physics, biology, the social 
sciences, and the humanities, are studied in the formulation and 
resolution of problems proper to their respective fields, as well as 
in the transfer of methods by which mathematics is made a phys 
ical science, or the subject matter of physics becomes organic and 
that of biology, some form of physical forces, or chemical processes, 

ioo Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

while the social sciences debate the validity of analogies to the physi 
cal and biological sciences, and the humanities accept or resist the 
methods of sociology, physiology, or linguistics. Finally, the con 
structions of our habits and knowledge, of their interrelations and 
their references to facts and experience, are organized according 
to principles, casual and unobserved in the processes of action, or 
precise and tested in the demonstrations of the sciences. Principles 
are often signalized in the inquiries and discoveries of individual 
men; they are often acknowledged in the common acceptance of an 
age or a people; their impact or alteration is often the mark of 
revolutions in science and society. The systematization of knowledge, 
values, and the relations of men, is the problem of "integration," in 
the broad sense in which principles are found underlying the inter 
relations of habits and emotions, of actions, knowledge, and com 
munication, of individuals, groups, and nations, which are in turn 
referred to the regularities and laws of nature by principles which 
determine the interrelations and systems of the sciences. The student 
encounters the problems of integration in the study of "Principles in 
the Sciences" in the third term of the course, and he examines 
concepts like "pleasure," which many moralists reject as an ethical 
principle, but which hedonists and utilitarians make the principle 
of all human actions, and "cause," which was long the basis of all 
scientific explanation until philosophers and physicists questioned 
the meaning and the very existence of causes. 

The exploration of the problems of the humanities in general 
education and in graduate studies was reflected in my program of 
teaching during these years. I taught sections in the Humanities and 
Observation, Interpretation and Integration courses in the college; 
I taught in the various interdepartmental committees and in the 
two departments in which I held my professorship, Greek and 
Philosophy. Departmental distinctions have led to the separation of 
the Plato and the Aristotle taught in Philosophy Departments from 
the Plato and the Aristotle taught in Departments of the Classics: 
the former frequently held doctrines which would be expressed with 
difficulty in Greek, while the latter wrote works full of philological 
problems but relatively free of philosophy. I adapted the methods I 

Richard McKeon 101 

had learned from Robin to read Plato and Aristotle with mixed 
classes in which philosophers learned some Greek, and Greek stu 
dents learned to discuss philosophy. I read Cicero and Aquinas with 
combined groups of philosophy and Latin students. I gave courses 
in which literary and art criticism was related to the discussion of 
philosophy and esthetics, courses in which scientific methods and the 
varieties of logical theories were related to their metaphysical assump 
tions, courses in which political and moral theories were examined 
in their bearing on the relations of cultures and on the political dis 
putes of our times, courses in the philosophy of education, the 
philosophy of law, the philosophy of language, and the philosophy 
of history. I came into contact in this curriculum of teaching with a 
more diversified group of students than could have afforded the 
adventure into philosophy in the older schemes of study. A generation 
of students is only a few years, and I can look back at several genera 
tions at The University of Chicago who have been able to move more 
widely in their studies than could their predecessors, both in the 
range of related interests and in the application of knowledge to 
present problems and things; who have conceived from the human 
ities a love for things human, for arts, letters, and sciences; who have 
learned to use languages, to apply methods of analysis and criticism, 
and to judge principles; who have acquired some sense of the histories 
and interrelations of peoples and cultures; and who can resort to 
reason without the suspicion that its cold light is destructive of 
humanistic values or irreconcilable with democratic processes. The 
educational practices which we established and the philosophic 
meanings which we explored, are already involved in the processes 
of change and misinterpretation, but the contacts with languages, 
with arts, with history, and with philosophy afford the student 
points of reference and support by which to judge their education 
and philosophy amid the changes; and the students who have made 
those skills and disciplines their own are a better expression of the 
ideals we set in education than any statement of our new plans or of 
the philosophies which animate them. 

102 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 


Planning for new forms of general education is grounded in 
present problems and in the relevance and efficacy of training in the 
major fields of human knowledge in scientific method and knowl 
edge of the results of scientific advance, in the background and 
problems of democratic life and man's attachment to the guiding 
principles of freedom, and in appreciation of humanistic values and 
powers of communication and expression. Teaching and research in 
the humanities consists in the exploration of the great achievements of 
man in the study of their continuity in history and universality in 
values, at the point where tradition affects the present in the use of 
languages, the appreciation of art, the interpretation of history, and 
the construction of philosophies. In modern times general education 
and humanistic studies have both been influenced increasingly by 
the interrelations of cultures and the broadening of interest beyond 
the limits of the traditions of Western European and American 
culture. The coming of the Second World War accentuated that 
process and gave it a practical turn. During the early 19405, planning 
for the effective use of educational institutions in contributing to the 
military success of the United States in the war took many forms, 
in respect both to research and to teaching. I participated in the 
planning of the Army Specialized Training Program, particularly 
the Area and Language Studies, and I became Director of the unit 
of that program established at The University of Chicago. The 
purpose of the Area and Language course was to give Army per 
sonnel a speaking ability in the language and a knowledge of the 
geography, and of the social, economic, political, and cultural condi 
tions of the country in which they might serve liaison and similar 
functions. The University of Chicago unit undertook training in 
German, French, Italian, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese, and the 
planning of the course included the choice of methods of teaching 
language and the determination of what kind of knowledge of the 
region, the people, their ideas, values, and institutions would be most 
useful to enlisted men and officers in the discharge of their duties. 
There are impressive indications that the courses served a useful 

Richard McKeon joj 

purpose in achieving the practical ends set for them during the war, 
and the influence of the experiences of the units set up at the various 
universities of the country, have continued in the postwar period, 
particularly in the methods of language teaching and in the planning 
of studies concerned with areas and peoples which had not been 
treated conspicuously in prewar education. 

The teaching of languages in the Area and Language Courses 
profited by the intensive training which was possible and by the 
motivation which was supplied by the circumstances. The student 
was under Army discipline and his continuance in the course 
depended on his progress in acquiring fluency in the language he 
was studying. A large portion of his day was devoted to classroom 
training, guided study, and practice with language records and re 
producing apparatus. Some of the schools made use of the methods of 
teaching language developed in the teaching of "non-literary" lan 
guages for which few "informants" or speakers, and no experienced 
teachers, could be found, and extended it also to languages with 
extensive literatures, well known grammars, and tested techniques of 
teaching. Publicity in popular magazines during the war was cal 
culated to give the impression that it was a method used in all units 
sponsored by the Army, and that the techniques of language training 
had been revolutionized by a "scientific linguistics" which used the 
example of "informants" to induce proficiency in foreign languages 
as one had acquired one's native language without the formalities of 
grammar. The linguists and language teachers at The University of 
Chicago concluded that the argument was based on a fallacy, for the 
analogy between acquisition of language in youth and in maturity 
neglected the devices which the mature mind might employ to 
facilitate learning, and on a misconception of the fashion in which 
grammar was used in recent language teaching. They found the 
linguistic method of language teaching wasteful: it dispersed the 
student's efforts by requiring some acquaintance with the distinc 
tions and terminology of a linguistic theory which was not particularly 
pertinent to his problems, as well as with the language he was 
learning, and the peculiar objectives to which the method was 
directed extended little beyond acquiring phonetic accuracy in the 

104 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

production of sounds. In languages possessed of literatures and related 
to cultures for which information is available other than that assem 
bled by the question techniques of anthropology, richer and more 
efficient teaching resources are available. The teachers at Chicago 
were convinced that they could achieve phonetic accuracy more 
effectively by other devices perfected in recent experiments in lan 
guage teaching and that they could also give proper attention to other 
related objectives, such as use of a larger vocabulary, fluency of 
idiomatic and grammatical speech, and development of ease and 
ingenuity in solving problems of expression in new subject matters. 
Tests were devised in which these various objectives were distin 
guished and the student's ability was examined with respect to each. 
Any generalization concerning the effectiveness of methods of lan 
guage teaching would depend on the systematic construction and 
administration of such tests, but more important than the decision 
among the rival methods which were tried during the war has been 
the continued development of methods and teaching materials along 
the directions indicated by those experiments. The importance of 
strong motivation and intensive training, however, is one of the 
undisputed lessons of wartime language training. 

The problem of what to teach concerning the "area" in the short 
time available in the course, was more difficult than the problem of 
how to teach the language of the area, and the nature of the difficulty 
is indicated in the choice of the word, "area," to indicate what was at 
least a geographical expanse in each case, and in addition, in varying 
degrees, a social, economic, political, cultural, and intellectual region, 
as well. The criteria of selection of what to teach were set in a general 
way by the range of possible duties that might be assigned to a 
soldier in the territory of a friendly or an occupied enemy country; 
but the possible duties were too variegated to determine categories of 
facts that might be useful, and area courses were constructed in the 
various units on the basis of indispensable minima of geographic, 
economic, industrial, social, historical, and cultural information inte 
grated by a variety of accidents and schemes. At The University of 
Chicago the emphasis tended to be more cultural and humanistic 
than at some other units, on the ground that the problems encoun- 

Richard McKeon 105 

tered in any assignment would be in part problems of information 
and in part problems of contacts with people; and whereas it would 
be difficult, if not impossible, to anticipate the details of information 
that might be required, familiarity with the culture and the values 
of the people would facilitate cooperation, and in most cases provide 
the means of securing the needed information as well. Some knowl 
edge of the literature, the philosophy, and the institutional, cultural, 
and intellectual history of the area was therefore woven into the 
information concerning rainfall, industry, transportation, and ethnic 

The area and language courses doubtless served a useful and urgent 
purpose in attacking a practical problem of liaison and contact during 
the war. That problem was the simpler form of complex problems of 
cultural contacts which were to have increasing attention in education 
and in political negotiations after the war. The history of the relations 
of the peoples of the world has been written in the past largely in 
terms of political, military, dynastic, and commercial contacts. 
Conquerors have swept across Asia Minor, Europe, and the Far 
East, frequently proclaiming the motive of "world dominion" to 
unite all mankind; explorers have skirted Africa and crossed the 
Atlantic from Europe in the interests of trade and as the precursors 
of settlers and missionaries; and it would seem, at first glance, that 
instruments, arts, and ideas traveled the pilgrim roads, the trade 
routes, and the paths of crusade and conquest, frequently unobserved 
in their immediate effects, following in the wake of these movements 
of power, profit, and salvation. The contacts of cultures are, however, 
older and more intricate than the tales of foreign lands which soldiers 
might bring back from their campaigns or sailors from their voyages: 
they are part of a texture woven into the folksongs which continued 
a living tradition after entering the Homeric epics; into the successive 
translation of Aristotle and Galen from Greek into Syriac, Arabic, 
Hebrew, and Latin; into the influence of the Bible in Judaism, 
Christianity, and Islam; into the spread of Buddhism, the migration 
of symbols, and the development of tools and technology. Since the 
war the contact of cultures has forced itself into prominence in the 
discovery that the economic, political, and social problems of the 

jo6 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

world are inextricably interrelated, and that knowledge and common 
values are indispensable instruments in the construction o a world 
community within which political institutions can operate on a 
worldwide basis. 

The educational aspects of the problem of the relations of cultures 
had become apparent even before the outbreak of the Second World 
War. Education in the United States had been based largely on the 
tradition of "Western Europe/' or even on efforts to concentrate on 
the American experience and what was peculiar to it: large regions 
of the world the Far East, India, Austronesia, the Near East, Russia, 
Africa, and even neighboring Latin America- were touched on only 
glancingly as they impinged on that local interest. Important advances 
had been made before the war in the improvement of Far Eastern 
and Russian studies on the graduate level, and it became increasingly 
clear as the war drew to a close that general education and the higher 
learning would have to reflect the broad scope of common problems 
revealed by the contacts of peoples which resulted from, and the 
common aspirations which were made practicable by, the advances of 
technology. The temptation to carry over the techniques of the area 
and language courses as a means to solve this problem was strong and 
widespread, and the regional "institutes" specializing in Russia, Latin 
America, the Far East, or Europe which have proliferated so rapidly 
since the war are often mere rearrangements of information and of 
traditional courses of study in new boxes, presented as novel results of 
the reexamination of problems and of the use of new methods for 
their solution. 

The organization of knowledge and the planning of education are 
not simply questions of arranging collections of data and information 
in patterns of time, space, and culture; they depend on involved re 
lations of the problems of times, the methods of sciences, and the 
aspirations of peoples. In our times they reflect common practical 
and material problems of war devastations, of food, disease, and 
security, and of the effects of technology on the lives and cultures of 
peoples on whom the impact of the advances of industry and science 
has been sudden and late; they are instruments in the attack on the 
political and social problems of vast numbers of people who have 

Richard McKeon loj 

recently acquired the right to self-government, in the extension of 
fundamental education and human rights, and in the development of 
the interrelations of the nations of the world; and they are the struc 
tures which determine approaches to problems of comprehension 
and achievement of shared values and of understanding and advance 
ment of common knowledge. In our discussions of these problems in 
their bearing on studies in the humanities at The University of 
Chicago it was decided to subordinate new regional arrangements 
of the program to new considerations of problems and methods for 
their treatment. In the Division of the Humanities the interdepart 
mental committees afford a frame for treating problems of cultural 
relations in terms of their reflection in problems of language and 
communication, of the cultural significances of art and literature, of 
the broadened frame of cultural history, and of the prominent in 
trusion of ideas and methods into modern discussions and ideological 

The political aspects of the relations of cultures and of educational 
devices became apparent in the preparations for the peace. As early 
as 1942, the Conference of Allied Ministers of Education (CAME) 
met to plan for the reconstruction of educational facilities and means 
of communication destroyed during the war. The Charter of the 
United Nations, signed in 1945, provides for the promotion of "in 
ternational cultural and educational cooperation." From these begin 
nings plans for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and 
Cultural Organization (Unesco) grew, in the conviction, stated in 
the Preamble to Unesco's Constitution that a peace based exclusively 
upon the political and economic arrangements of governments could 
not secure the lasting and sincere support of the peoples of the 
world and that peace must therefore be founded upon the intellectual 
and moral solidarity of mankind. Unesco is an experiment in the 
relations of peoples; it is an effort to use education, scientific, and 
cultural instruments for a political end, the achievement and safe 
guarding of peace. I participated in some of the early meetings called 
in the United States to discuss the form which Unesco's program 
and operation might take, and I was Adviser to the United States 
Delegations at the first three sessions of the General Conference of 

io8 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

Unesco, in Paris in 1946, in Mexico City in 1947, and in Beirut in 1948. 
I returned to Paris in 1947, after the establishment of Unesco, to serve 
as the first Acting Counsellor on Unesco affairs attached to the United 
States Embassy in Paris, and on my return to the United States I 
served as a member of the United States National Commission on 

In September, 1947, a Committee of Experts was assembled in 
Paris to advise the Director General concerning the program of 
Unesco in philosophy and the humanities. I attended the meeting as 
one of the United States experts, and as Rapporteur I drew up the 
basic document prepared at the meeting. The Committee differ 
entiated three levels of activities in the field of philosophy and the 
humanities: the continuing service activities, such as the exchange of 
persons, information, bibliographical compilations and the like, in 
which philosophy and the humanities should share with the other 
disciplines; the activities related to its program which Unesco would 
stimulate and encourage international organizations in philosophy 
and the humanities to undertake; and, finally, projects bearing 
directly on the purposes of Unesco to be carried out under Unesco's 
direct supervision. The Committee recommended two such projects, 
one in philosophy and one in the humanities. Both projects were 
conceived, not as scholarly enterprises undertaken in their respective 
fields, but as efforts to formulate the direct and immediate contribu 
tion which philosophy and the humanities might make to the peace 
of the world. The Committee decided that, if one asked what place 
philosophy has in the search for means to avoid conflict and to 
establish that dynamic order among the nations of the world which 
is the definition of peace, the answer must be found in the fact that 
philosophic issues were involved in the so-called "ideological con 
flict" which affects the discussion of diplomats, the reports and 
editorials of newspapers, and * the ideas and formulations of men 
everywhere. The ideological conflict is basically an extension of 
philosophic problems to the discussion of problems of ordinary life, 
of national policy, and international relations, and a project was 
therefore planned to examine certain fundamental terms, such as 
human rights, democracy, freedom, law, and equality, as they enter 

Richard McKeon /op 

into contemporary practical problems and statements about them. 
In like manner, if one were to ask how the humanities might con 
tribute to mitigating the confusions and reducing the conflicts of our 
time, and how they might give emphasis to the elements of under 
standing and community which are beginning to emerge, the answer 
must be found in the study of humanistic aspects of cultures, in the 
communication which arts and letters establish, not in doctrines, but 
in basic values underlying differences of expression, tradition, and 
times, and in the community of traditions in their mutual influences 
and their common values. The Committee recommended, therefore, 
that a second project be set up to treat the hierarchies of values 
characteristic of cultures and expressed in artistic and intellectual 
productions as they bear on the relations of peoples and the problems 
which peoples face in common. 

I continued work on both projects. The first form which the 
examination of ideological conflicts took was the study of human 
rights undertaken by Unesco early in 1947, in cooperation with the 
Commission on Human Rights of the Economic and Social Council 
which had just started on the task of drawing up the Universal Decla 
ration of Human Rights. Unesco was to examine the intellectual bases 
of the rights of man, first, in their historical development from the 
philosophic principles on which they were formulated in the classical 
statements of human rights in the eighteenth century to the principles 
invoked in their definition and defense today, and second, in the 
present day opposition of principles which leads to diverse interpreta 
tions of human rights and in particular to the opposition of traditional 
political and civil rights to more recently asserted social and economic 
rights. The Unesco Committee on Human Rights issued its report 
in July, 1947, and the collection of essays made in the course of its 
inquiry was published under the title, Human Rights: Comments 
and Interpretations, in 1949. The project was continued in an inquiry 
into the ambiguities which surround the word, "democracy," in 
recent discussions and manifest themselves in opposed institutions 
and practices, as well as in propaganda maneuvers and accusations. A 
volume entitled. Democracy in a World of Tensions, appeared in 
1951, published by The University of Chicago; the study of the 

no Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

diversities and shades of meaning attached to the term, "democracy," 
is addressed both to clarifying differences of meaning and to ex 
ploring means of reducing differences of action. 

The study of the humanistic aspects of cultures has meanwhile 
been directed to two related aspects of the relations of cultures the 
study of the effects of new technologies on the customs and values of 
peoples who have been little affected by technological and scientific 
advances, and the structures of values in cultures that have adjusted 
themselves or are in process of adjustment to industrialization and 
political independence. The pattern of basic philosophic attitudes and 
values embodied in the institutions and in the ways of life of people 
or assumed in their statements about their institutions and actions, 
cannot be abstracted from the conditions or the relations of peoples; 
and with proper cautions against ambiguity and conscious deception, 
the relations of peoples can be better understood by reference to that 
pattern of ideas and values. Even the political and economic relations 
of the various parts of the world are affected by what men believe 
and by what their beliefs mean, and the promulgation of a universal 
declaration of human rights will be translated by the peoples of the 
world into comparable actions in recognition of those rights only 
after the different meanings of "rights" and the different hierarchies 
of values which give effect to rights in different cultures have been 
transformed into motivations to comparable common ends. 

The three problems which I have presented in the guise of an 
autobiographical account of my activities during the past thirty years 
the philosophic, the educational, and the political problems of our 
timeshave close interconnections both in the logical interrelations 
they would assume in any philosophy and in the historical interde 
pendences they would reveal in any time. They have only an acci 
dental relation in the career of any one man, and the irrationalities 
and paradoxes which he encounters are frequently the marks by which 
to reconstruct a version of the relations which they have in logic or 
in culture. The form according to which I have arranged this account 
makes the events it treats fall into the sequence of a consecutive search 
for a truth which is unified, and the sequence of the narrative is 

Richard McKeon xii 

easily restated in an argument which proceeds in sorites from basic 
premises. It could as easily be recounted as a sequence in which I 
backed at each stage into the interests and basic convictions of the 
nextj and it could then be restated in an argument that proceeds by 
paradoxes in which the contraries of each stage are reconciled into one 
of the contraries in the paradox of the next. 

I backed into philosophy as a means of securing insight into the 
conflicts of theory and practice, of values and actions, which became 
increasingly prominent at the time of the First World War. I moved 
down the history of philosophy in my study of the antecedents of 
contemporary intellectual and moral attitudes, and I have backed 
into the broadening of my philosophic position in an effort to under 
stand what would be implied in the positions denied by a series of 
philosophers. Dewey denied the distinction between art and science, 
practice and theory, and I found that the significance and power of 
what he taught depended on understanding the differences which 
separated the pairs of terms he collapsed. Spinoza denied the separa 
tion of the order and sequence of things from the order and sequence 
of ideas by scholastics engaged with words and by empirics engaged 
with manipulations of things, and I first appreciated the value and 
validity of his denials when I understood that proof might be 
distinguished wholly from process or be reduced to operations which 
can be controlled and repeated. Aristotle denied the idealism of Plato 
and the materialism of Democritus, and I began to have some insight 
into the peculiarities of his scientific and philosophic method and 
into his influence on the later history of thought, when I learned the 
opposed contributions of the ideas of Plato and the atoms of Democ 
ritus to the inquiry of men into the nature of things and of change. 
The denials seemed to me at first encounter so plausible that I found 
it difficult to understand how any one could ever have held the 
positions so readily and so persuasively refuted, but in each case a 
return in history or a reconstruction in theory made the refutation 
one more example of how men turn easily away from the theories 
they criticize but seldom because they have discovered error and 
destroyed its grounds. The importance and use of denying the 
distinction between art and science and between theory and practice 

112 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

are indeed directly proportional to the force and validity of the 
distinction and the length of time during which a tradition and a 
culture have acquiesced in it. 

The relation of scholarship to teaching and of both to the social 
and political relations of our time, may be stated in terms of the 
same dialectical processes which are forced unobtrusively or reluc 
tantly on scholarly inquiry. It is not merely that the pursuit of philos 
ophy is itself both a process of education and a consequence of 
problems encountered in or induced by the educational process, but 
the education of a time and a people is a philosophy stated in genetic 
form and it serves to organize available knowledge and cogent 
beliefs in a kind of metaphysics of habitually accepted principles of 
action. When knowledge has been vastly increased, when the actions, 
productions, and relations of people have in consequence been altered, 
and when communications among men have been facilitated but 
obscured, then values that have been recognized to be common to 
all men are increasingly difficult of access to any man and the prob 
lem of reviewing and reorganizing education becomes in a funda 
mental sense philosophic. Yet philosophy, in our times, has become 
an academic pursuit and the philosopher backs from speculation to 
teaching as a career which permits leisure for scholarship and 
thought. Moreover, teaching has become a middle term, in our times 
as it has frequently before, to connect knowledge and scholarship to 
the status and operations of citizenship. Propaganda, communication, 
and education were seen to be powerful political instrumentalities 
during the war, and the political relevance of education and philoso 
phy, which were doubtless apparent long before Plato constructed a 
perfect state by educating philosopher-kings, must continue to be 
recognized increasingly during the peace because of the dangers, 
as well as the opportunities, presented by new media of communica 
tion, new subjects of knowledge, and new recipients of education. 

The logical relations among these three problems must be in 
ferred from the accidental relations in which they fall in the life of a 
man or the intercourse of a group. I have talked about myself, there 
fore, by recalling the ideas I have encountered in a manner which 
would be justified by Aristotle's argument that the mind which is 

Richard McKeon //j 

actively thinking is the objects which it thinks, or by Spinoza's con 
clusion that men agree in nature and are united by the common 
possession of the true ideas which they share. Either account of their 
interrelations the metaphysical account of their essential inter 
dependences or the autobiographical account of the accidental 
sequence in which their intermingling is discovered is an index 
to the nature of our times. We face a philosophic problem of formulat 
ing the organization and interrelations of our knowledge and our 
values, the interplay of our ideas and our ideals, the influence of our 
new sciences in providing means for the solution of old problems 
and in laying the beginnings of new problems, and the distortions 
and misapplications of what is called scientific method and of what 
is claimed as democratic practice. That philosophic problem is in 
separable from the educational problem of equipping men with 
abilities and insights to face the new problems of our times and to 
use the new instrumentalities with wisdom and freedom. The philo 
sophic and educational problems are both implicated in the political 
problem of achieving common understanding among the peoples of 
the world who might, if ideas continue to become opaque in the 
oppositions of interests, be divided into parties determined by classes, 
the wealthy and the dispossessed, rather than by ideas and purposes. 
Understanding of common ideas and common ideals is the one 
means to combat and discredit the assumption that values and ideas 
are simple reflections of class interests and ideologies, that philosophy, 
art, and education are simple badges of privilege or instruments of 
revolution, and that the differences which threaten to divide the 
world are impervious to methods devised for the peaceful resolution of 
differences and for agreement and cooperation on common courses 
of action, but can be resolved only by subterfuge, violence, and 

The philosophic problem is not one for the speculation of the 
isolated scholar engaged in the construction of a personal doctrine. 
It depends for its statement and examination on participation by a 
broadly educated public and on testing of basic doctrines and values 
against the fundamental presuppositions of other philosophies, 
religions, systems of values, and modes of life. Philosophic univer- 

H4 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

sality is easy to achieve by reducing all other views to the require 
ments and limits of one preferred creed and system, but it distorts 
the doctrines it refutes; and a similar easy and violent victory in 
imposing uniformity in political practices, with its consequences in 
suppression and hostility, is the only alternative to a political uni 
versality based on common understanding and on common values. 
True universality in intellectual, as well as in practical relations, 
depends on insight into the diversities of cultures, philosophies, and 
religions, and on acquaintance with the methods and consequences of 
science. The educational problem is not a simple choice between 
preserving the old and denominating anything new as good, but 
requires an integration of a new kind to be achieved both by apply 
ing new knowledge to values and by according new recognition 
to the claims of peoples and the values of cultures. International 
understanding, finally, will not be achieved either by programs of 
propaganda and information, or by setting forth the patterns of cul 
tures and laboriously trying to think and feel as other people do. 
Values are based on the peculiarities of cultures, but they are under 
stood and appreciated, even by those who share the culture in which 
they originated, because of their universality, and international under 
standing is based on the recognition of common values in the vast 
diversity of their forms and idioms. Understanding has a practical 
bearing both on action (because education and knowledge can build 
a foundation for international cooperation and world institutions) 
and on theory (because understanding and the preservation of peace 
are indispensable conditions for the progress of science, the construc 
tion of values, and the cultivation of the good life). These three 
the understanding of order in nature, in the relations of men, and 
in knowledge, the education of men sensitive to the marks and uses 
of that order, and the appreciation of differences in the modes in 
which peoples express that order and seek their fulfilment in 
accordance with it are the three related aspects of a problem which 
we all face in our individual lives, our communities, and in the 
world relations in which all communities have been placed. 


As I write these words, our plane has just risen above a 3,000 foot 
overcast which has kept the Atlantic seaboard in a dull and oppressive 
gloom for several days. In just seventy seconds from the time our 
wheels left the runway, we have risen into the most brilliant sun 
shine which is painting with soft pastel colors the clouds far beneath. 
This familiar experience vividly enacts the transition many of us have 
lived as we emerged from the mists of dependence on materialism 
into the reality of God's spiritual universe and our place in it. This 
was precisely what happened to me and to my family when we found 
Christian Science and began to live a spiritually aware life. 

I was born into a strong religious and moral tradition. It was 
formal and stern, there was much that was good in it, but it had 
failed to give my parents and me what we needed most in life: 
awakening and health, progress and the demonstrability of spiritual 
truth. The virtues of our old religious tradition were mainly negative. 
It had failed altogether to open the vistas of illimitable spiritual 

Nevertheless, it was an immensely wholesome and sturdy environ 
ment into which I was born, and I am very grateful for it. Had I 
not seen something of its ultimate sterility, I should not have been 
so aware of the significance of spiritual awakening. Its positive values 
laid a good foundation for further progress. 

My father and mother were earnest and scrupulously practicing 
Methodists. I remember church sermons and suppers, Sunday school 


Ii6 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

sessions and Sunday school picnics, from earliest childhood. But I 
must confess that I recall no spiritual lessons at all from these early 
days. My most precise memory of the Methodist Church, I must 
admit with apologies, is of marching around the Sunday school room 
while the collection was being taken, singing (to the tune of Onward 
Christian Soldiers) : 

Hear the pennies dropping, 
Count them as they fall. 
Every one for Jesus, 
He will get them all. 

But this is unfair. Of course I have a precious heritage, within its 
limitations, of our Methodist days, although it is inseparably blended 
with the standards and precepts of the community and the time. I 
was born in the small city of Auburn, Maine, in 1904. My father was 
a reporter and sometimes a printer on a small daily newspaper. 
His father and grandfather had come to Maine from the eastern 
counties of England. My grandfather, who was a weaver in a woollen 
mill, was also a Methodist lay preacher. He was a true and earnest 
exponent of the tenets of John Wesley. In England, he and all his 
relatives had always been "chapel folk.'* 

My grandfather and grandmother were sweet and gentle people. 
Indeed, there has run a strain of contentment and love of simple 
goodwill through all the Canhams of our branch that I have ever 
known. Nearly all of them have been poor and humble people, but 
they have always been gracious and contented, and their family 
circles have been warm and intimate. I do not know of a single 
broken marriage out of my scores of uncles and aunts and cousins. The 
family has had a great sense of kinship and affection. My grandfather, 
whose household began to swell steadily in the 'seventies and 'eighties 
of the past century, wanted keenly to save enough money so that he 
and his wife could travel back to England to see the haunts and 
friends of their childhood. The only way he could contrive to do this 
was to give up the one nonessential item of his household, his pipe 
tobacco. This he did. The resultant savings took him and his wife on 
two trips back to England in their ripe years, and started a family 

~Erwm IX Canham 1/7 

tradition. My father never smoked, and I do not, although our 
abstinence also stems from the teachings of Christian Science. My 
grandfather and father and all the members of the family that I 
know were also total abstainers from alcoholic drink. 

We were, you may say, a dour and spartan lot. But that is far 
from the fact. My grandfather and grandmother Canham were beam 
ing, rosy cheeked little people (I do not resemble them physically) 
and their legacy to me was a deeply felt sense of sweetness and good 
in the home, a profound devotion to organized religion, and a loving 
family circle. This is, indeed, no mean heritage, and I am grateful 
for it and for my gracious kinfolk. 

My mother had been a school teacher in her teens, in the one 
room district schools of rural Maine. Neither she nor my father had 
the possibility of earning their way in college, and although both 
were studious, they also felt upon graduation from high school 
which was a great event in their lives the need of going right to 
work to help their families. They had been sweethearts in school, 
and their marriage came four years after graduation. 

My mother's people had been in Maine since Colonial days. Her 
father was a farmer who eked out the inadequate fruits of a hard- 
scrabble rock strewn Maine farm by working off and on all his life 
as a bricklayer and mason. He was a craftsman of the best folk 
tradition, and the tops of his chimneys avoided Victorian ostentation 
and swelled with simple Grecian lines. I can still see many of his 
chimneys as I drive the country roads of Androscoggin County, 
Maine, and they make me proud of his untutored, graceful work. 
He, too, was studious and thoughtful, an avid reader. He loved to 
have me as a small boy read to him, and some of the facility to read 
aloud which stands me in useful stead nowadays before a microphone 
stems from the practice I had in reading to my grandfather in the 
country kitchen, during the long winters when he could not work as 
a mason and the chores were all done. 

His wife, my grandmother, was another simple soul whose loving, 
gentle goodness had also something of the fierce protectiveness of 
a mother hen. Let any external influence try to harm or tempt her 
brood! She would dispose of that! She was also a fine craftswoman, 

liS Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

but in the making of rugs, and quilts, and rich, golden, beautifully 
molded butter which she sold to townsfolk to add a little of the 
badly needed cash income. 

From these two grandparents came three daughters my mother 
and her two sisters who are among the most remarkable women I 
have ever known. They have all become Christian Scientists, and 
they have long shown as I suppose many women have the kind of 
tireless energy and effectiveness which is typical on another stage of 
Eleanor Roosevelt. One of these aunts, now widowed, is the Treas 
urer of a Maine county. She is likewise a craftswoman of surpassing 
capability and a lady of magnanimous heart. I know of no particular 
craft that my Aunt Millward cannot do well. She rises early and 
labors late, and she expresses love and unselfishness in everything she 
does. My second aunt never married. To support herself she first 
worked as a milliner, and then took up the making of fine chocolates. 
Her sweets are much sought in Maine, and are sent by the hundreds 
of pounds to all parts of the country, although she does all the work 
herself and refuses to expand the business. She, too, is markedly un 
selfish and kind, a keen student and an active participant in intellec 
tual and religious activities. 

The third sister, my mother, has been a striver after spiritual 
truth all her life. She, too, was brought up a devout Methodist, and 
she and my father were active in the church during their young 
married life. I am an only child. Before I was born, my mother began 
to have serious and debilitating physical difficulties. Her continued 
ill health explains my parents' decision not to have more children. I, 
too, was a very sickly child during the first few years of my life. So 
sternly was I dosed in my first year or two, that something 
attributed to over-medication affected my baby teeth, and I lost 
many of them prematurely. 

To help make both ends meet, my mother worked whenever she 
was able to in the newspaper office where my father was employed. 
When I was about two, the family moved to a farm outside the small 
city, and my father tried to make his living by combining farming 
with newspaper work, with selling insurance, and with various 
other devices. For a number of years, he and my mother were itinerant 

Erwin IX Can ham 119 

country correspondents for the newspaper. They would travel to 
surrounding towns by street car, by train, or often by horse and 
buggy, to gather the news and write it up for the paper. Often 1 
would be taken along. My earliest recollection of newspaper work is 
of my father gathering news by telephone and then typing it into 
copy on his ancient typewriter. I would stand beside his typewriter, 
which I could barely reach, and let my hand ride back and forth on 
the carriage as he typed. But I remember with the most warmth the 
trips to country towns in search of news and what news! of 
daughters back from the city for Sunday with the folks, of the 
entertainment and speaking at Grange meetings, of good crops and 
calves and colts. 

But I must curb the free flow of these memories. Let me sum 
marize them by saying that my youth was spent familywise and 
otherwise in a happy, peaceful, serious, hard working environment. 
It was part of the tradition to work hard children, too. We had very 
little money, but we never felt poor. Until I was in high school, I 
doubt if our family income ever averaged as much as thirty dollars 
a week. My toys were often second hand, my clothing strictly 
utilitarian, and our diet very plain. But our little family was well 
knit, we shared our thoughts and pleasures. I had few play fellows, 
for nobody with children lived near our farm. Our very sharing, 
however, meant also sharing the inadequacies and uncertainties of 
our life. Life was tolerable, life was sometimes fine, but we were 
still living under the overcast. 

Moreover, my mother's frequent illnesses cast a constant shadow 
over our relative well-being. I was continuously subject to more 
than my share of ailments and resultant dosings. My father was 
restless and insecure. There was no focal point in our lives. Despite 
all the fine and lovely things I recall, we were still in an atmosphere 
of spiritual gloom and low visibility. In every sense, we were earth- 

Then disaster tried to strike. My mother was taken seriously ill 
with constricting tumors or other growths in her throat, and the 
medical diagnosis was foreboding. No hope of healing lay along the 
line of medical or surgical treatment, as our good friend and neigh- 

120 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

bor, the village physician, frankly advised us. My mother had once 
or twice heard of Christian Science in the year or two preceding this 
crisis. So, in her extremity, she asked us to obtain the services of a 
Christian Science practitioner. Such a person was located at a dis 
tance of over one hundred miles, and she was asked by telephone to 
give my mother an absent treatment. Overnight, during the first 
treatment, the growths in my mother's throat broke and passed 
harmlessly away, and she was completely healed. From that time to 
this, my mother has enjoyed the most radiant of good health, as 
have I, and our lives have been illumined by a spiritual light and 
focus which comes only by awakening. 

We began at once the eager study of Christian Science. Within 
a few years, my mother became a Christian Science practitioner her 
self. My father was equally imbued with the truth of this new insight 
into the Bible and this new possibility of spiritual healing daily and 
hourly, and not only of physical troubles, but of all the problems 
that faced us. His life was steadily thereafter given direction and 
purpose. Ultimately, he became the agricultural editor of two daily 
newspapers in Maine. For some thirty years he spent happy and 
fruitful days traveling among his farmer friends, recording their 
progress toward better ways of farming and stimulating them to 
better methods, constantly spreading among them the friendly glow 
of his cheerful, enlightened character. 

From the time we entered into the study of Christian Science, 
lives which had been wholesome but earthbound became empowered 
with purpose and demonstrability. My mother, whose integral 
reliance on the power of the word of God is transcendent, has helped 
bring healing into the consciousness of thousands of eager or tortured 
seekers for truth. Our horizons lifted. The way was opened for me 
to go to a city high school, rather than the poor country school where 
I had begun. It took me some time to catch up with the others in 
school. Indeed, I did not do so during high school. It may encourage 
some laggard boy or girl to know that I had to take four entrance 
examinations to get into Bates College a virtual disgrace, for only 
a B mark would qualify for entrance without examination. But in 
college, so swiftly were my horizons widening, I was on the honors 

Erwin D. Can ham 121 

list during the first semester and never looked back. My Bates years 
were very fruitful. I was chosen while yet a freshman to debate 
against the first group of debaters the Oxford Union Society ever sent 
to the United States. Later I took part in many intercollegiate debates, 
edited the college newspaper, was president of the college Outing 
Club, and led a debating team on a tour of seven British universities. 
Later I was chosen as a Rhodes Scholar and spent three priceless years 
at Oxford. 

Throughout all this time, Christian Science was the central element 
of my life. First, of course, came its influence in the home. When a 
small boy of ten sees his mother turn from a semi-invalid of many 
years standing into a blooming picture of health and fruitful activity, 
he is naturally happy and grateful and curious about what has 
worked the change. When he sees his father turn from a restless, in- 
confident, troubled, and aimless man into a person of purpose and 
conviction, he knows that something big has happened. When he, 
himself, manifests health and freedom which he had never known 
before, he knows there must be some mighty cause. 

The cause, of course, was the tremendous spiritual direction that 
had come into all our lives, and was henceforth to engross them for 
the rest of our human experience. My first steps in Christian Science 
were not only at home, where my mother taught me its fundamentals 
as she learned them herself, but in Sunday school. Our Christian 
Science Sunday school is a simple but direct institution. We have 
no picnics and no games. We take pupils only up to the age of twenty, 
for there are other modes of adult instruction and study. In the Church 
Manual, written by Mary Baker Eddy, it is stipulated that children 
shall be taught as fundamental first lessons the Ten Commandments 
and the Sermon on the Mount. A study of these elemental bases for 
spiritual living, coupled with illustration by many simple Bible stories 
readily understood by children, takes up the first ten years or so of 
Sunday school. It does not become monotonous, for there is always 
new richness and meaning to be discovered in the Law and the 
Beatitudes. Nothing is more deeply engrained in the Christian Sci 
entist's thinking than the universal validity of these two texts, and 
their applicability to all human problems. This applicability is illus- 

122 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

trated by the way the Prophets, as well as Christ Jesus and His Dis 
ciples, carried out these truths in their daily lives and work. 

In addition, the beginning student of Christian Science young or 
old learns the meaning of God by studying the synonyms of God 
given in the Bible. These, as summarized by Mrs. Eddy in Science 
and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the Christian Science text 
book, are Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love. All these 
are to be found in the Bible except Principle, which, however, is one 
of the best ways of conveying the meaning of God to modern man. 

It is easy to see how the study of these synonyms opens great vistas 
of spiritual insight. They provide fruitful periods of Sunday school 
discussion, always oriented toward proving the truth of precept by 
actual demonstration. Thus a good deal of Christian Science Sunday 
school activity will be devoted to the sharing of experiences in which 
children and young people have worked out in their own daily lives 
better ways of living and thinking in accordance with God's law, and 
of proving their birthright of health and harmony in tune with the 

As children grow older, the Sunday school teaching turns to a study 
of the Christian Science Bible Lessons. These are citations from the 
Bible and Science and Health, varied each week, on a series of basic 
subjects which repeat themselves twice a year, but always with fresh 
citations and insights. These Bible lessons are again directed toward 
two objectives: better understanding of God's Law, and ways of 
proving it in daily living. These are all simple lessons, but they can 
be exceedingly fundamental and impelling. In his personal life, the 
Christian Scientist if he lives up to his faith is a total abstainer, a 
non-smoker, and deeply devoted to sexual morality and the sanctity 
of the home. These things, too, are embedded into the thinking and 
action of the Sunday school pupils by discussion and the sharing of 
experience and standards. 

All of this came to me in my formative years. In addition, I at 
tended Christian Science Sunday morning services, and Wednesday 
evening testimony meetings. At the latter, after readings from the 
Bible and Science and Health, members of the congregation as they 

Erwin D. Canham 123 

are moved to do so, tell of experiences of healing or of spiritual bene 
fit. There again, the emphasis is all on a demonstrable, dynamic, ap 
plicable faith. And in our own family, I saw the stream of patients 
who came to my mother and found spiritual healing as she was able 
to awaken their thinking to a reliance on God and an understanding 
of His Law. In my own household, after marriage to a young lady 
who had found her own way to Christian Science after a careful in 
vestigation of many other faiths, I have experienced the great joy of 
fruitfully unfolding family experiences and the opening of spiritual 
doors to our own children. They, too, are learning and applying the 
infinite power of God's love. I have also had the privilege of Christian 
Science class instruction, which is simply a two week period in which 
a very experienced Christian Scientist teaches fully and penetratingly 
the elements of its work to a group of thirty students. Annually, these 
students meet for a day with the teacher for spiritual refreshment 
and reclarification of their teaching. 

All of this represents a religious conviction which is also a pro 
found and pervasive way of life. I am deeply persuaded of God's 
allness and goodness. Thinking of God as Mind or Principle, for 
example, I can also understand Him in terms of modern cosmological 
theory in physics or mathematics. I have watched and studied with 
engrossing interest the falling away of materialistic theories of man 
and the universe. I have observed the swiftly mounting acknowledg 
ment of mental causation among the natural scientists, the physicians, 
and, indeed, among thoughtful men in all disciplines. I am impressed 
when men like Dr. Edmund W. Sinnott, Dean of Sheffield Scientific 
School at Yale University, say: "The good old days of billiard ball 
atoms, Euclidean geometry, and the indestructibility of matter are 
now gone . , . Matter in the old sense indeed has ceased to be ... 
The universe in which our fathers felt so comfortably at home has 
vanished . . . Great things are in the air, exciting new ideas in the 
sciences which may still further modify our understanding of the 
universe. This is no time to be dogmatic or complacent, for almost 
anything can happen now. The idealist who follows the ancient high 
way of the spirit toward reality has gained a more respectful audience 

12^ Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

than was his a half century ago . . . Man, not matter, is the chief 
problem of the world today." 1 

I am likewise impressed by such summaries as those of Lincoln 
Barnett, in his book, The Universe and Dr. Einstein, when, after 
referring to "sense-imprisoned man," he says: 

Physicists have been forced to abandon the ordinary world of sense per 
ceptions, the world of our experience. Even time and space are forms of 
intuition, which can be no more divorced from consciousness than can 
our concepts of color, shape, or size. Space has no objective reality except 
as an order or arrangement of the objects we perceive in it, and time has 
no independent existence apart from the order of events by which we 
measure it. 2 

Naturally I have also studied as much as I could in the swiftly ex 
panding field of psychosomatic medicine, wherein mental causation 
is now recognized by physicians as being impelling in a vast propor 
tion of either organic or functional disease. Out of a great multitude 
of cases proving mental causation, let me mention but one, in Dun- 
bar's Emotions and Bodily Changes, published by the Columbia 
University Press, and quoted in Psychodynamics and the Allergic 
Patient, by Dr. Harold A. Abramson. The experiment is recorded 
of two groups of patients who were hypnotized. I quote: 

One group was told that they were going to be given, after the hyp 
nosis, a laxative medicine, and the other group was told that they were 
going to be given medicine which had a constipating effect; but actually 
the medicine was reversed. The gastrointestinal tract proceeded to obey 
the suggestion given by the hypnotists and not the pharmaco-dynamic 
action of the drug. 3 

This experiment and its like is recorded many times in the medical 
texts seems to me to leave little basis for faith in drugs. Nor does it 
encourage me in the direction of hypnosis, which must inevitably de 
grade the integrity of the individual's thinking. It is so much more 

1 Edmund W. Sinnott, in a Yale University press release, October, 1947. 

2 Lincoln Barnett, The Universe and Dr. Einstein, William Sloane Associates, New 
York, 1948. 

3 Helen Flanders Dunbar, Emotions and Bodily Changes, Columbia University Press, 
New York, 1935. 

Erwin D. Canham 125 

pertinent and efficacious to turn in the direction of spiritual healing, 
in accordance with the noble exemplifications of the Prophets of old, 
Christ Jesus, His Disciples, and all those who have turned receptively 
to God down through the years. 

I do not wish unduly to stress the element of physical healing, which 
is the least of the awakenings Christian Science brings to the indi 
vidual. Far more significant is an awareness of spiritual reality in an 
hour of such grave and foreboding crisis to our materialistic society 
as is this hour. All the world, as we all know, needs an awakening 
to spiritual reality. This can come only, I am confident, as organized 
religion turns to the spiritual dynamics of which healing is a part, 
but the re-making of individual lives into God-awareness is the whole. 

It is the belief of reality in matter now being spurned by the more 
thoughtful natural scientists which blocks our way into the new 
society that must be. And in our own time, we have had powerful 
proof that matter cannot save us now. The atomic bomb, possibly the 
hydrogen bomb, are merely the latest in a series of proofs that our 
only salvation lies in an awakening from the materialism which has 
encrusted human thinking. The key to that awakening is an under 
standing of spiritual reality, as contrasted to the falsehood that matter 
ever has or ever could save civilization. Mary Baker Eddy, in Science 
and Health, has written a passage which has vivid applicability to this 
very hour in history. She wrote: 

The more destructive matter becomes, the more its nothingness will ap 
pear, until matter reaches its mortal zenith in illusion and forever disap 
pears. 4 

It seems to me that right now, matter has reached a zenith of destruc- 
tiveness so overwhelming as to be able to awaken human thinking 
to its nothingness its total lack of ability to save us or to order 
society. It is the acceptance in human thinking of the claims of matter 
which gives it destructiveness. When once we refuse to let ourselves 
be dominated by an acceptance of materialism, and found our lives 
instead on spiritual truth, the nothingness of matter will become a 

4 Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Christian Sci 
ence Monitor, Boston. 

126 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

reality in our experience. This is not far from what the physicists are 
saying when they renounce the world of sense-impressions and of 
billiard ball atoms. Again discussing the claims of matter, Mrs. Eddy 
wrote that they would disappear when "the radiation of Spirit destroys 
forever all belief in intelligent matter." 5 It is interesting and moving 
that she uses the word, "radiation" the word which today so grimly 
suggests the peril of our materialistic world. Surely there can be 
wide agreement on the thesis that the radiation of Spirit can, indeed, 
solve our problems and lift us out of the lethal clouds of matter. It is 
this radiation of Spirit, I am sure, which must imbue our national 
thinking and our statecraft, in order to cut through the present hate 
and fear. 

It has been my ineffable experience to work with many noble col 
leagues on The Christian Science Monitor, and in the organization 
which supports it, in a continuous effort to awaken human thinking 
to spiritual reality. It is further evidence of her practical wisdom and 
foresight that Mrs. Eddy founded a daily newspaper, against the ad 
vice of those about her and in the face of the cynical and patronizing 
judgment of the journalistic world. She saw that a newspaper would 
be a mighty channel for good to the world in the years to come. The 
Christian Science Monitor is not published for a denominational 
audience, and its spiritual mission is not always overt. But that mis 
sion is invariably implicit, as best we can practically apply awakened 
thinking to the affairs of the day. 

I believe that all mankind, whether it knows it or not, is ready for 
spiritual dawn. Many men today are saying, sometimes with a voice 
of anguish, that peace can be found only in the minds of men. With 
us here and now is the Truth on which that peace can be demon 
strated. It is the Truth which is the spiritual heritage of mankind, 
which is enshrined in the One Law so many of us have inherited, 
which is exemplified in the doctrines of Christianity, and which is 
to be found gleaming at all times and in varying measure in the 
spiritual experiences of all races and peoples when they turn to God 
with understanding hearts. The Truth is with man. The awakening 
must come. Yours is the responsibility and opportunity, as it is 
5 ibid. 

Erwin D. Canham 127 

mine, to sound the call of alarm and to afErm the blessed assurance 
o the power and goodness of God. When enough o us awaken to 
that power, and demonstrate it in our lives, we will have set to work 
in human society the illimitable and infinite force of the "radiation 
of Spirit." That power can itself be a chain reaction. But undoubtedly 
we need to apply to its organization and mobilization the same 
immense common effort we are putting into the development of 
atomic fission and fusion. Let us realize this in our own thinking, 
and let us apply ourselves to its fulfilment. We have at hand the 
wellsprings of God's power. What we need to do is to understand 
and apply the truth which has brought human society through many 
wildernesses and will ultimately lead it into the promised land of 
God's governing when understood and demonstrated. 


We see America from our windows. We are cliffdwellers who 
know few neighbors. But we are not alone. In our building live 
Catholics, Protestants, Jews, a Moslem, a Hindu, and Mormons. 
From our window one way are the roofs of the Catholic University 
of America where men and women break a tradition and attend 
school together. The other way is the Episcopal Cathedral, growing 
slowly as cathedrals did in old Europe, and housing the remains of 
Dewey, who carried our flag so far, and Wilson, who made America 
universal, a Protestant holdover of a Catholic Europe. 

Across is a playground and a recreation center where health 
through play and leisuretime guidance are directed. At our right is 
a library and across the street a public school. From the same window 
we see Cardinal Gibbons and Marconi in bronze. Science and 
religion no conflict from our window, but what memories rush 
through my mind. Disturbed as my associates were over this con 
flict, my mother's words saved me when she said there could be no 
conflict because the basis of God's power is knowledge. To God there 
are no miracles. He just knows how. I remembered my mother when 
I saw a Buddhist prayer wheel being turned by a water wheel. No 
conflict there between science and religion! Without moving our 
chairs and within a stone's throw we see five churches and the most 
beautiful Catholic edifice in Washington, with its sixteen-petal- 
chrysanthemum window. Sixteen-petal-chrysanthemum a Buddhist 
symbol and the Japanese imperial crest. I found a sixteen-petal 


/jo Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

chrysanthemum on a chariot of a Pharaoh in the Cairo museum. It 
is on the Damascus gate in the wall of Jerusalem. To me it is most 
significant, but when talking about it to the greatest Near Eastern 
archeologist I ever met, he said it was just a decorative symbol! On 
Sundays the streets are crowded with worshipers, but none unhappy 
because all go to the church they wish for this is America. 

We like our apartment, because a glance out brings to us every day 
the meaning of America, for there is the dome of the Capitol under 
which was worked out for man the first, just, classless tax system ever 
developed by a government of men. A fair tax is the foundation of 
American dollar democracy. We see the Washington Monument, 
representing the character of the man it honors, whose "honesty is 
the best policy" makes Washington, as a founder of a nation, with 
out a peer. Back of the Monument the Jefferson Memorial appears. 
In the Memorial are words of Jefferson which give to man the dignity 
of gods: "God created the mind free, no man shall be compelled to 
support any religious ministry nor suffer on account of his beliefs. 
All men have liberty of religious opinion. Their morality is part of 
their nature. I know but one code of morality for men whether acting 
singly or collectively." 

To the south shines Moroni, typifying the "Restored Gospel." 
Moroni to us represents America's religious gift to all men, augment 
ing and making more clear the eternal truth concerning God and His 
purposes. From the Capitol, Washington, Jefferson, and Moroni, 
America's great symbols of liberty, has come Elbert Thomas, 
American and Mormon. 

American and Mormon, yes, but in his own mind, one often 
implies the other, but never to the extent of confusing the two. With 
out America his religion could never have been. Without his religion 
American political fundamentals would not represent divine truth. 
The activities of his church are broader than the teaching of theology, 
for they do have economic, social, educational complexities which 
cause individual and group controls, but there is no intermingling or 
confusion, and the individual's free agency is never questioned. 
Through cooperation, so essential around an irrigation ditch where 
water is the life blood of the community and belongs to all but is 

Elbert D. Thomas 131 

controlled by each, both public and private, church and non-church 
interests are understood and do not conflict. 

It is of more than passing interest that the Mormon Pioneers 
developed the equivalent of the Chinese longest lived private 
property land system in history, which recognized the public or 
community interest along with the individual or private. The 
Chinese divided their land into squares which in turn were divided 
into nine smaller squares, eight private and one public. The center 
one being the public one where the community well was, and to this 
day the Chinese character for well represents this division $p. The 
Mormon Ward in the beginning of Salt Lake City was divided 
the same way. The middle square belonged to all. There the Meeting 
House stood. The other eight squares were privately owned. There 
was this difference between the Chinese and Mormon division, while 
both reflected an aspect of our democracy, private and public property, 
the Chinese forgot roads, which led to confusion and a breakdown 
of the system. But the Mormons divided each square by public road 
ways. The Church is a large property owner. Therefore, in a Utah 
community there is public property belonging to all the people, the 
Church property which may be both taxable and non-taxable, accord 
ing to its use, and private property. 

The Mormon Meeting House is an institution whose character is 
all its own. Its use is religious, social, recreational, civic, and political, 
where there are no other halls. The Mormon Meeting House reflects 
American frontier life. The simple building is generally puritanic 
in design. But it is more than a church. It is a theater; it is a dance 
hall, a workshop, and a community center, as well as a chapel. 

American and Mormon influences have jointly and separately con 
tributed toward the making of Elbert Thomas and they are related. 
As the Mormon missionary moved into foreign lands, his appeal 
would be accepted only by those who were converted to the meaning 
of America as well as the Gospel. The combined appeal, until 
restrictions were put on immigration, was always "Come, Gather up 
to Zion " 

Thus the spiritual autobiography of Elbert Thomas must reflect 
activities of a complex life: student; Main Street merchant; teacher 

/J2 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

and University administrative officer; politician, who has dealt with 
problems incident to foreign relations, treaties, world organization, 
military policy, education, labor, public welfare, pensions, aid for 
veterans, and mining; a writer; and a man whose faith in God is as 
childlike as his love for his mother and father, whose life is a prayer, 
whose religion has never been questioned by himself, and who has 
never argued with himself or with others about it. His God and his 
religion have been taken for granted, and he has never experienced 
any dissatisfaction with either, although he has seen hundreds of 
gods and studied a score of religions. This is prologue. 

I am a product of the public schools. I went to kindergarten and 
I finished with a PhJD. It took a long time, but during every minute 
I was exposed to American ideals. If there is a history guide to which 
I can turn it is the 174-year struggle of my country to make a political 
concept work and become universal. 

My father was born in Cornwall, England. His father was a prop 
erty holder, referred to as "squire." Father, after finishing his appren 
ticeship, met Mormon missionaries in London. He was baptized, 
confirmed, "ordained an elder," and "set apart" as a missionary on 
the same day. He was very young, only nineteen when he arrived in 
Salt Lake City in 1863. He crossed the plains without relatives with 
a body of "Saints." His duties on the plains were those of a scout who 
rode ahead alone to look out for unfriendly Indians and to select camp 
sites near water and grass for animals. Later, he brought several 
members of his family to America but none ever became Mormons. 
His first job was copying parts for actors in the Salt Lake Theatre. 
Established in business in the northern part of the Territory, he 
married in 1865. My mother was from Devonshire, England. As a 
girl of fifteen, she had walked from the Missouri River to Utah. 

In 1869, my father returned to Salt Lake as manager of Walker 
Brothers, an institution out of which have come many institutions. 
In 1869, the Walkers supplied food for workers who were building 
the Union and Central Pacific Railways. The Walkers were non- 
Mormons. Our home was in a part of Salt Lake where non-Mor 
mons were predominant. Father spent weeks in the East every year. 

Elbert D. Thomas 133 

His friendships were broad and our home was visited by persons 
from almost everywhere. 

My mother's and father's interest in the theater never lagged. They 
built for us children one of America's well known "little" theaters, 
"The Barnacle" a made-over barn. Its novelty attracted many and 
some of America's outstanding players visited it and trod its boards. 
The Barnacle was responsible for developing many interests in us 
children. Through The Barnacle and the Salt Lake Theatre, which 
became a national institution, the theater became part of me. In The 
Barnacle, I made my first political speech and did my first acting. 

Our home was good. I remember the candle chandeliers being 
piped for gas, then made over into electric fixtures. We had candles, 
lamps, gas, and electric lights at the same time, and, to her dying 
day, my mother always kept a candle on her dressing table. Pioneers 
take no chances. 

Our library was full. Our interests were as broad as I have known 
them anytime. 

A Mormon child is blessed and given a name as a baby, and while 
his name is kept on the Church rolls he is not "born in the Church." 
He must wait until "the age of accountability." When he is eight he 
is baptized and confirmed a member of the Church. I was baptized 
at eight and taught its meaning so positively that my responsibilities 
seemed great. The impressions gained have never left me. 

In Chicago, before I was ten, I was taken by my mother to Inter 
national Women's meetings and to the International Congress of 
Religions. There I was impressed by the speech of Kinza Hirai, who 
represented Shinto. I met Mr. Hirai later in Japan. To this day I 
remember a Hokku poem he quoted: 

There are many roads that lead to the top of the mountain 
But when once the summit is gained the same moon is seen. 

The World Columbian Exposition, with its midway, was an educa 
tion for any boy. Since meeting Sol Bloom my midway experiences 
are renewed. Was he responsible for all the good shows? Well, I 
have met no other. 

134 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

Already disciplined in my religion and its children are not 
neglected I listened to many representatives of the world's religions. 
I knew that I would be a missionary because that is expected of every 
Mormon boy. When the call came it was with a happy significance, 
for it read, "When you have married Edna Harker you and she may 
proceed to Japan." Then began one of life's ventures, and before it 
was completed Edna Harker Thomas had become the first lady 
Mormon missionary to circle the globe. 

In June, 1893, I turned ten. While in Chicago the Panic broke. I 
had learned that nations as well as individuals suffered for their acts 
Jefferson and Lincoln both said that and my Sunday school teacher 
taught it. We left home well to do. We returned, as the books showed 
when I studied them after my father's death, thousands of dollars 
in debt. It was not a case of from riches to rags, for credits kept things 
going, but I heard and learned of gold, silver, interest, and inter 
national exchanges, and, above all, the meaning of money. Japan, 
China, and Europe taught more. Textbooks never taught as clearly 
as I learned those lessons first hand. From that day to this I have 
been certain that the nation that invented the gold standard, in order 
to exploit backward peoples, and doubled investments in the Americas 
by cutting in half the value of the American dollar, would someday 
suffer for this act. World events have not caused me either to belittle 
or reject what Jefferson and Lincoln said and what my boyhood 
teachers taught. 

1893 was my first panic. I was to see more. With each I have sought 
the reason for its beginning and studied for its cure. The getting 
of the nations of the world to accept the Declaration of Philadelphia 
in 1944, seemed a natural culmination of a life of thought. When I 
convinced my own nation to accept the Declaration, I did it with 
a firm conviction that depressions can be avoided, if nations will 
throw their whole energy to the task, as we do so well to win a war. 

1893 taught me to be thoughtful about what my future college 
instructors called the Industrial Revolution. Coal-energy and ma 
chinery to work for man has seemed to me to be one of the great 
spiritual aspects of the promises incident to the restoration of the 
Gospel. God's purposes for the ultimate redemption of man and the 

Elbert D. Thomas 735 

making of the earth a better place, were all parts of my thinking in 
regard to "a great and marvelous work about to come forth." 

In college the two greatest nineteenth century concepts, Darwinism 
and Marxism, did not attract. Marxism meant clash and ultimately 
single-willed dictatorship. Therefore it would destroy the freedom. 
Darwinism, when united with the concept of progress, might have 
had some attraction, but I never became interested. 

When the Second World War started, as I look back on my feelings 
in regard to it and what I did, I discover that I reacted wholly and 
completely to form. America must win, so that American theories 
could be spread throughout the world. The American Revolution 
seemed to have meaning in thinking of the two world wars, and the 
dignity of man could only become worldwide under American 
auspices. While most of my work as Chairman of the Military Affairs 
Committee had to do with the war activities, I could never rid myself 
of the idea that ultimate victory can come only through a change in 
men's hearts and ideas. More with that zeal than the idea to destroy, 
I supported the experimentation which resulted in the atom bomb. 
Therefore, I also gave myself over wholeheartedly to psychological 
warfare. I had studied in Italy, Germany, and Japan. The Office of 
War Information used my name almost everywhere, but I, in a 
sense, concentrated my own efforts on my messages to the Japanese 
people, which I started in December, 1941, right after Pearl Harbor, 
and continued up until 1946. In those messages I had but one theme, 
and that was that Japan was ruining herself, because she had turned 
apostate to the best ideals that Japanese civilization had developed. I 
knew how the Japanese constitution worked. I knew that the generals 
in the field were absolute. They could not be controlled by the home 
government. I knew, therefore, that we had to have a constitutional 
surrender under the auspices of the Emperor, or we would turn loose 
on the world millions of guerrillas who had learned how to live on 
the land, and that our soldier boys would be chasing those guerrillas 
over half the world. That my judgment was not bad is proved by 
events in Greece. That I knew what I was talking about is proved 
by the surrender itself. The opposition to my ideas by those who 
wanted to destroy and bring anarchy in Japan, hurt me in much the 

i$6 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

same way all prejudicial opposition has hurt me. But in this activity, 
as in my religious activity, I was sustained by a sense of knowing that 
I was right. The world, of course, will never be interested in what 
was accomplished, but the world some day will know that order 
comes from order, that chaos comes from chaos, and that stability 
must be built upon stability. But it will be a long time before a world 
which has accepted contrary philosophy throughout its history, will 
see the point. That does not make me feel that those who support 
what might be called the spiritual and intellectual approach, are 
wrong. We cannot build world organization without morals, even if 
we do follow bright young men who learned much in German gym 
nasiums and became fascinated by Bismarck's theories of "national 
self-interest." Of course, Bismarck was not the creator of a foreign 
policy built upon "national self-interest," but from Bismarck's time 
to the fall of Hitler the world has seen the rise and the fall of an empire 
which at no time accepted any fundamental national doctrine 
but that. America's mission is not based upon a "national self- 
interest." This nation which accepts a higher law than a national one, 
also recognizes responsibilities and objectives larger than national 
ones. Our history proves it. America's place in the world of tomorrow 
will be where it has been since 1776, when Jefferson, Franklin, 
Adams, Livingston, and Sherman wrote eternal principles into our 
Declaration of Independence. 

Besides the Chicago World's Fair and the great panic, 1893 also 
brought the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple. To a ten year old 
boy, this was a monumental experience which could not help but 
affect his future spiritual life. As kiddies in primary and Sunday 
school we sang "We Want To See The Temple." Every Fast Day I 
took my donation for it. It was indeed a symbol of sacrifice for the 
whole Mormon people. 

My father was appointed one of a committee of two to furnish the 
temple. My mother's father was one of its chief stonecutters, and, 
therefore, a builder. The temple was only a block from our store in 
the center of the city. It was near our home. Mormon people will 
always be a temple-building people, because the temple reflects so 

Elbert D. Thomas i$j 

much of the deep meaning of their religion. It could not help but 
give me an interest in temples as I wandered over the earth. 

There are many things in a person's life too sacred to talk about. 
The temple, to the Latter-Day Saint, is one of those things. The 
temple, more than any other institution, is the symbol of unity 
between man's earth life and his eternal existence. It is the place 
for marriage, and it is the place that all Mormon missionaries go 
before they depart for their missions. In the case of marriage and in 
the case of a mission, it is the starting of a new life. To one who has 
observed marriages the world over, temple marriage is beautiful and 
simple, but full of the deepest of religious meanings, and gives to 
love between husband and wife a sacredness which to the thoughtful 
and the prayerful influences the whole of life. The temple tempers 
the parting, when death separates for a time a life's companionship, 
and when a new relationship is gained, it is entered into with such 
deep understanding that the sacrament of marriage influences all 
acts and thoughts of life. 

I have and I will mention the temple many times in this little 
spiritual life story. The Mormon temple is to the understanding 
Mormon boy all and even more than the ancient temple at Jerusalem 
meant to the Jews. The ancient temple contained the secret of a 
Jewish unity which the great Pompey could not understand. And 
when he found himself alone with what he thought was nothingness 
in the sanctum of the temple, he marveled how nothing could hold 
a people. I, myself, have, I believe, experienced Pompey's feelings. 
In the Orient, just as in the ancient world of Pompey, wooden and 
stone gods, death tablets, images, and other visible representatives of 
the supernatural, were so commonplace that one expected, as one 
saw the inside of a Shinto shrine, actually to see what Pompey thought 
he would see. Alone, I had the chance to enter a shrine deep in the 
mountains, a shrine with its Torii gates, representative, undoubtedly, 
of the ancient Egyptian eagle, which is found so plainly engraved on 
Mayan monuments in Central America. While I was not surprised, as 
Pompey was, at finding nothing, because my life had sensed the 
power of a spiritual control, I did learn that spiritual bonds held the 

/3 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

souls of men we call pagans as it did our own. And again I sensed the 
universality of that spirit that could enlighten the souls of all men 
and the lesson of "at-one-ment" was mine again. 

Born and raised in the neighborhood of the Mormon temple, 
Buddhist temples always attracted me. Their symbols fascinated me. 
and when, for example, I noticed first the swastika sign as a Buddhist 
symbol, I remembered seeing that symbol on American Indian 
pottery. Again world unity came to my mind. Such thoughts and 
many others like them undoubtedly contributed to my World Unity 
Through Study of History. 

I had another temple experience at Jerusalem. I had seen the 
Russian pilgrims come up to the Holy City. I had experienced in 
life there the conflict of beliefs. I visited the Church of the Holy 
Sepulcher, and had many thoughtful musings over Gordon's tomb. 
I had wandered over most of the land, but the evening that Palestine 
impressed me most was when Mrs. Thomas and I sat on the Mount of 
Olives and looked across the valley to the place of the temple and 
the Mosque of Omar. While our baby gathered pebbles, we read the 
dedicatorial prayer offered by Orson Hyde on October 21, 1841, 
when the land of Palestine was dedicated by a Mormon elder sent 
by the Prophet Joseph Smith to dedicate Palestine for the return of 
the Jews. Here again deep, meaningful, long range spiritual under 
standing entered my soul. At the time I read the prayer, just twenty 
years after the dedication of our own temple, a few Jews were 
returning to Palestine to be buried near Jerusalem. Tel-Aviv was a 
doubtful venture, for in all there were only sixty or seventy thousand 
Jews in the Holy Land. Belief in the restoration of Jerusalem is part 
of my religion. In one of the Mormon scriptures is the prophecy that 
the Jews will return to Palestine under the auspices of the gentiles. 
Throughout the past two or three decades, when renewed interest in 
Palestine has come to the consciousness of the whole world, I have 
always been more than a mere observer of what to me is the fulfilment 
of God's promises. 

The forty years spent in building the Salt Lake Temple was a 
period of poverty and always a time of trouble. To my mind, this was 
proof of what the spirit can do. The wisdom and statesmanship of 

Elbert D. Thomas 139 

Mormon leadership is shown in this undertaking. An unemployed 
man is the most uneconomic o creatures, and idleness is the greatest 
destroyer of community morale. Both unemployment and idleness 
were avoided by the temple building. The possibilities o temple 
work for older people and those who find too much leisure time on 
their hands from whatever cause, has only begun to dawn. Lonesome, 
idle, purposeless old age is by all odds the worst time of life. Even if 
Cicero did say that old age is the best period of life, because then one 
may sit in the Senate, it just is not so. Few people sat in the Senate 
in Cicero's time, and fewer now can sit in our own or other Senates. 
But the possibilities of developing happy, useful, and healthful old 
age have not yet been realized. Aside from the religious aspects, the 
Mormon temples have justified themselves in producing the most 
spiritual minded and happiest old people I have observed anywhere. 

The evening of the day that the Brethren decided to build the 
Hawaiian Temple I walked home with President Lund. He told me 
about the decision to build the Hawaiian Temple. When once a man 
has been given the Priesthood and presided over the Church's major 
activities, the spirit of his work never leaves him. Without thinking 
of the reason the Brethren might have had in building the temple, 
I said: "Isn't it remarkable, President Lund, that the first temple 
built outside continental United States should be built for the 
Chinese, Japanese, and Pacific Islanders!" President Lund looked 
surprised and said: "No, the temple is a monument to President 
Smith's first mission in Hawaii." Monument or not, the first couple 
married in the Hawaiian Temple, I have been told, were Chinese. 
The "work" for the ancestors of Japanese and Chinese members of 
the church has been started. The future will show that the temple 
will attract the worthy among the Orientals as no other Mormon 
activity will. 

When the Arizona Temple was being planned, I was shown the 
artist's drawing for the frieze. The frieze depicted the carrying of the 
Gospel to the world. The Japanese group was to me the most beauti 
ful. But at that time, and it was long before the war, the Japanese were 
not much liked even by some of our leaders. History was forgotten 
and the Japanese group does not appear on the temple frieze. Disap- 

140 Thirteen Americans; Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

pointment through lack of appreciation for work done affects one's 
spiritual growth quite as much as appreciation does. 

In 1893, I saw President Cleveland. I had already seen President 
Harrison. Great men have always influenced my life. From each I 
have gained lessons. From mention of my father and mother anyone 
can see that I have a sense of filial piety. Many of our own people 
have influenced me greatly. Among the world's great who have con 
tributed toward my life have been President William Howard Taft 
and William Jennings Bryan, both of whom came to Japan. But it 
was at the Conference of Governors, held in Independence Hall, 
Philadelphia, in 1918, when I represented my own Governor and 
when President Taft led out for the League to Enforce Peace, that 
President Taft became an influence. President Taft and I were the 
only two non-Governors in that conference, and he, in presiding, 
always linked my name with his when the clerk called the roll. He 
was a great inspiration. President Charles W. Eliot of Harvard came 
to Japan. From him I learned my greatest lesson in education. From 
Zenophon I remembered that "a question, then, is education." Great, 
retired, thoughtful, and wonderful, President Eliot spent his time 
with me not in giving information, but asking questions. Do not 
people ever stop studying, I wondered? I was with Wilson two days 
before he was stricken. There was our own Franklin D. Roosevelt, 
whom I learned to know so well, and who I think learned to know 
me, for he called me often to the White House. Senator Barkley and 
I were the last two men in official life who saw the President just 
before he left for Warm Springs. He called us down to the White 
House to ask about a bill which we were unsuccessful in having the 
Senate accept. I told him frankly that I thought we could not pass the 
bill. He was tired, weary, and as we left he held out his hand and 
said: "Well, Elbert, even Lincoln didn't always have his way, did 
he?" And I said, "No, Mr. President, he didn't, and it is probably well 
for the people of the United States that he did not.'* 

In my travels men have meant quite as much as places. As a 
university sophomore, I reorganized the students of the University of 
Utah and wrote the constitution of the associated students, building 
that constitution around functional activities. When we set up the 

Elbert D. Thomas 141 

consitution, each student activity was in debt. When I got back to the 
University and began teaching, the constitution had not only sur 
vived, but it had made the student body a strong, solvent institution. 
Of that, I am more proud than my degree. 

In international relations I have full faith in my country's purposes 
and with the strength of America on which to build, there seems to 
be nothing in the remaking of this world that America cannot accom 
plish, if she will but plan and work with the vision and faith of our 
Founding Fathers. As a child of the American Revolution, for me 
events in the world revolve around it I have written in other places 
that the spirit and theory of the American Revolution will yet en 
circle the globe. I have interpreted the suggestions for world organi 
zation and the development of Democracy, since the invention of 
the American Federal system, with its concept of liberty and freedom, 
as part of the great "latter-day" movement. My concept of Mormon- 
ism puts meaning in all that is done. In the reading of history, events 
like those which took place in Europe in 1848 seemed closely related 
to what was taking place in America at the same time and even in the 
Salt Lake Valley. I would not like to be thought of as a world 
revolutionary, but Thomas Jefferson seemed to me to be a world 
revolutionary, even before I proved it to my own satisfaction in my 
Thomas Jefferson, World Citizen. And surely the toast offered at 
the great celebration at Philadelphia after the Constitution was 
agreed to "To the United States and to the freedom of mankind 
everywhere" was a rather broad toast, if men meant what they said. 
Is my idea farfetched, when we remember that Louis Philippe, 
Napoleon III, and Garibaldi, all had lived in America? 

In Tokyo in 1911, just before the opening of the Chinese Revolu 
tion, I met Sun Yat Sen and his associates, including an artillery 
student, Chiang Kai-shek. They were all students of the American 
Revolution. Gandhi was influenced by reading our Thoreau. While 
it did not seem to have influenced him much, Trotsky had at least 
lived in the United States. In interpreting world history, I can never 
start, as most Westerners do, with Abraham, Palestine, and Egypt. I 
do not, as the Brahmans do, give Ganesa, the God of Wisdom, a 
salute. In fact, I slight India. I begin with the Canon of Shun in the 

1^2 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

East and the Law of Hammurabi in the West, and work down, 
always pointing out the unities between the two. In the building of 
the future political world, I start with the Declaration of Inde 
pendence, and, with the future spiritual world, I start with Joseph 
Smith's first vision. America is the center of each thought. When 
someone says Washington is fast becoming the capital of the world, 
I dismiss the statement as if it were an accomplished fact. I have 
known that all my life, for I have been taught it since babyhood. 

The strongest challenge which has come to my revelation-inspired 
religion was that offered by a Confucian scholar. Because this experi 
ence added to my spiritual development, I think that it is proper here 
to point out the conflict that does exist between a religion based on 
revelation and one based on man's wisdom. This scholar was a 
Chinese-trained Japanese. He was an honest believer in Confucianism, 
and maintained that a peaceful world was possible only under 
Confucian naturalism. He attacked especially the West's concept of 
revelation. "That concept is a guarantee of strife, and even war," 
he said, "because men must be loyal to what is revealed to them from 
God. To die for a belief is the most honored duty Western civilization 
has yet produced." Speaking to me directly, he said, "You are now 
sacrificing the best part of your life to come here to try to teach me 
your religion. I honor you for it, and I also honor the West for what 
it calls its unselfish interest in all men. But I do not believe it is 
unselfish. I believe it is a selfish interest which you believe is necessary 
to prove your loyalty to God." 

I became thoughtful about what the Confucian scholar had said, 
and I visioned the Roman Pantheon when the Roman people ac 
cepted the gods from all lands, and set them up side by side for any 
and all to worship. And I remembered that when the time came for 
putting up the Jewish-Christian God, peace in the assembly of gods 
ceased, because before the Jewish-Christian God could enter the 
Pantheon all other gods had to be knocked down. 

On my next visit, I explained how we in America lived in com 
parative religious peace by separating church and state, and allowing 
freedom to and for religions. It was in these conversations that I, in 
defending the American way of religious life, traced the history of 

Elbert D. Thomas /^j 

religious strife in Europe and America through the periods of perse 
cution, forbearance, and toleration. I admitted that we still had a 
long way to go, and I advanced the theory that I wanted to see the 
day come when appreciation might take the place of toleration. He 
smiled and said that would not bring peace or remove the clash. He 
pointed out that I liked to study the thought of Confucius or I would 
not come back to see him, and he said he believed I truly appreciated 
and admired the thought of Confucius. He said he appreciated but 
did not admire our concept of revelation. And he said, "I will show 
you the difference and prove to you that your system always ends in 
clash. You teach me your beliefs and you say if I accept them and 
believe, then I must strive to defend my belief, because the principles 
I have accepted are God's principles and must be defended by my 
life. I must willingly become a martyr, as you express it. But if you 
become a Confucian, you need never die for your belief, because 
you know that what you believe is merely Confucius's opinion, and 
you need never die for that. Your loyalty is only the loyalty to a 
friend's heart." 

In 1901, while I was studying for the Oxford Rhodes Scholarship, 
one of Utah's Patriarchs came to our home and I received my 
"Patriarchial" blessing a commonplace experience for Mormons 
but never commonplace in effect on the lives of those who respect the 
blessing. Mine became another guide to understanding of events, 
because nations, as well as persons, are mentioned in my blessing. 
1893 and 1901, as much as being put on the Thomas Jefferson Memo 
rial Commission, influenced my Thomas Jefferson, World Citizen. 
Thus the child was the father of the man. 

My childhood memories in Utah include the beginnings of political 
parties there, carpetbagism, the struggles for statehood, and land 
rushes, as Indian reservations were opened. Religion figures in all 
these activities. 

Women voted in the Utah Territory. The struggle my mother had 
to face was to keep that franchise for the women. When the state 
constitution was being written, an attempt was made to deprive 
women of their suffrage "and make our state like most of the other 
American states when we joined the Union." Memories flood my 

1^4 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

mind here: the fight for suffrage in England, for I was there; the 
first election when women voted in France, for I was there; and then, 
one of my Japanese students wrote his thesis on women's suffrage, 
returned to Japan, fought for it, and ultimately won. 

I saw the confiscation of Mormon property and the Mormon 
leaders disfranchised by the Federal Government. The first herd of 
sheep I remember had a red "U. S." branded on the back of each 
sheep. I suppose it was a herd owned by some Mormon cooperative. 

My father had much to do with the gaining of amnesty for the 
Saints from President Harrison. I remember three conversations at 
the dinner table between my mother and father on what later in 
life I learned to realize were very important; first, concerning the 
granting of partial amnesty to the Saints by President Harrison and 
later full amnesty by President Cleveland. When I became a grown 
man one of the First Presidency of the Church, President Penrose, 
told me that my father had done much to bring amnesty. 

Another time after Father was appointed with Henry Dinwoody a 
committee of two to furnish the Salt Lake Temple, he told of getting 
permission from the Brethren for hundreds of non-Mormons to 
view the inside of the Salt Lake Temple before it was dedicated. 
This did much to bring good feelings and helped with statehood. 

After his return from a New York trip, about 1896 or 1897, Father 
told of advising bankers who had been approached for a loan of one 
half million dollars by Heber J. Grant, who was in New York offer 
ing all the security the Church could muster in attempting to get a 
loan. A banker told Father that the bank was not disposed to grant 
the loan because the security was of doubtful value. My father 
explained that if the bank got the names of the First Presidency of the 
Church on a note, all the Mormons everywhere would give their all 
to see the note honored, and that that was the only security they 
should demand. History tells us the loan was obtained and, of course, 

Another incident which did much to influence my youthful 
thinking occurred during the great drought of 1894 or 1895. Brigham 
Young, before he died, had urged the Relief Society Sisters to store 
wheat in preparation of need in case of crop failure. By 1895, many 

Elbert D. Thomas 145 

bushels of wheat had been accumulated. An uncle, a Methodist 
Minister whose church was in Nebraska, where the drought was, 
came to visit us. It was to relieve this condition that Congress 
appropriated money to buy seed for those distressed farmers, only to 
have the bill vetoed by President Cleveland, because he said the 
United States Government was set up to be supported by the Ameri 
can people, and not for the purpose of having the Government 
support the people. There was no relief for the farmers. My uncle 
knew of the Mormon wheat and pled with my father to plead in 
turn with the Brethren to send a train of wheat to his stricken friends. 
I remember so well Uncle's pacing back and forth and repeating 
that "surely the Lord would be happy if the Brethren would send 
some wheat." Our people were not greatly loved through those parts 
of America, and I am sure those big enough to realize it were pretty 
doubtful about wheat going where our missionaries had had so many 
unhappy experiences, but I was for sending the wheat. Uncle con 
vinced me. Father suggested bed to us, and remarked: "I think, 
Samuel, the Brethren will send the wheat/' I knew if Pa said it the 
Brethren would surely send the wheat, and went off to bed greatly 
relieved. The Brethren did send the wheat. 

This story is hardly complete without telling another in connection 
with the Relief Society wheat. It was in 1919 when President Wilson 
was on his swing around the country speaking for the League of 
Nations. It was before he spoke in our Tabernacle. His speech in 
Salt Lake was one of the last he gave before he was stricken. I was 
acting as our Governor's aide and we had taken President Wilson to 
his hotel. He mentioned our wheat, and said he would like to thank 
the head of the Relief Society for it. On being informed that President 
Emaline B. Wells lived in the same hotel, he was guided to her rooms,, 
and he there thanked her for letting the Government have the wheat* 
I have been told that the Sisters sold their wheat to the Government, 
and with the proceeds established maternity homes in communities 
where there were no hospitals. I was proud then of Brigham Young's 
farsighted statesmanship, proud of the honor President Wilson 
bestowed, and proud as a Mormon to have been a witness of these 
two great occasions where Mormon foresight came to the aid of a 

146 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

nation and those in need. The Church welfare organization today is 
large. Its capital investment and stocks now run into millions. 

When about fifteen, I was called with three other boys on a special 
"mission" to visit all the non-Mormons in our neighborhood and 
attempt to interest them in the Gospel a heartbreaking assignment 
if I ever had one. We made no converts. When I became a grown man 
I was assigned the headship of such a home mission, and the earlier 
task did teach me much. When I was nineteen, the old Salt Lake 
Stake was divided into four or five stakes, leadership became scarce 
as a result, and I was appointed a Mutual Improvement Association 
President. My appointment came not from merit, but because there 
were no other young men left. The people I taught were two young 
boys and several old men who came out of a sense of loyalty, because 
Mormons never let any announced meeting fail. There I learned that 
a teacher could learn much, even if he could not teach much. Readers, 
I would have never undertaken this task today If I had not learned 
that lesson in my youth. These early tasks gave me courage for 
future responsibilities, especially when I started my first Oriental 
courses, where I had no textbooks and no guides to lead the way. 
They also gave me courage to stand alone when the time came in 
interpreting the Chinese classics and history in my future studies. 
To pioneer a new field of study in an American university, is no 
easy task. To get Chinese scholars to change their interpretations of 
the Chinese classics, is also no easy task. 

A man who goes into public life does not win all the time. I have 
won and I have lost. In losing there is sometimes a victory, because 
time and passing events change many circumstances. In reorganizing 
the student body at the University of Utah I had to win not only the 
students but both the faculty and Regents who opposed the "radical" 
change. My first political venture resulted in a crushing defeat, when 
I ran for Secretary of State in 1920. But my support of President 
Wilson's theories made me stronger for the United Nations contest. 
During the First World War I was able to convince our legislature 
that outlawing the teaching of German in our schools would not 
contribute to winning the war. This made me very unpopular, as I 
was in the Second World War, when I urged the acceptance of 

Elbert D. Thomas iqj 

Nisei in the Army by enlistment and through the draft. When I 
insisted on attempting to get a constitutional surrender from Japan, 
to avoid the anarchy incident to the complete destruction of the 
Japanese State, I was called a pal of Tojo. It is the first struggles that 
are hard. The years it took me to get our Government to accept the 
strategic materials act and to start stockpiling, is a good example. 
Even when we got the first bill passed, it was crippled by amendments 
in the Senate. I would have let the bill die, if it were not for the 
fact that I wanted to get a principle established. We therefore 
accepted the best we could get, and the bill was improved in con 
ference, but not without my taking a terrible tongue lashing in the 
Senate for not standing by the Senate bill. That victory, disappoint 
ing as it was, was greater than I thought. The last strategic materials 
bill passed the Senate without a dissenting vote, and a national policy 
now is accepted by all. Can anyone separate the moral, spiritual, 
economic, or political influence on one's life from such experiences? 
As a man who has sponsored the creation of many public policies, 
his boyhood experiences in winning a just cause against great odds 
overshadows in importance many of the later accomplishments. 

The presentation of copies of the newly translated Book of Mormon 
to the Emperor and Empress and the Crown Prince and Crown 
Princess seemed to us an impossible task the Emperor of Japan was 
so aloof and we were afraid to ask diplomatic assistance but it was 

The Mormon boy is taught that there are two influences which are 
constantly struggling for supremacy over every man's life. The best 
way to keep in harmony with the good is to keep the GospePs com 
mandments and follow the dictates of the spirit. But the easiest way 
to do this is to "follow council." It is in this way that prophecy be 
comes so much a part of one's life. 

I asked my father one time for money for a trip. He said, "Do not 
bother about going on trips. In your lifetime you will go everywhere 
and see everything. Wait until you have some reason for going." I 
have circled the globe and crossed the oceans so many times I cannot 
remember the number of crossings, but never once have I taken a 
pleasure trip. 

i$ Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

It is inevitable that everything said by one of the leaders takes on 
the aspect of prophecy. It is a guide not only for the immediate task 
but will have bearing on the future. For example, when Mrs. Thomas 
and I were "set apart" for the Japanese Mission, the blessings were 
given by Apostles Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith, both 
later became President of the Church. That in itself is significant and 
an honor. But just before Brother Smith blessed me, Brother Grant, 
who was the senior, suggested that I be ordained a Seventy and at 
the same time remarked: "Brother Thomas may be away a long time 
and have great responsibilities." Thus a simple sentence became a 
word of prophecy to me, and as life moved on to greater responsi 
bilities I became convinced that President Grant had a purpose in 
what he said. Such simple prophecies influence a Mormon boy 
throughout his life. But prophecy is no good unless you live up to 
your responsibility. You yourself must do the doing. That cannot 
be left to God. He helps only when you do your best. Therefore be 
prepared for anything. 

The Mormon missionary throughout the world today is recognized 
as a young college boy interested in athletics. He plays baseball and 
football where those games are played. And the Church today feels 
that the boy is living a natural life and that he is doing nothing which 
interferes with his labors as a missionary, but that was not always the 
case. Any new thing jars. I not only played baseball and basketball in 
Japan, but I let my missionaries play, and we became well known as 
a result. When the people at home began reading about this, I 
received a letter from the First Presidency, written, I am sure, by 
President Lund. It said in essence, "Brother Thomas, our people 
make great sacrifices to keep their children on missions, and when 
they read about their playing baseball, they wonder if they should 
not be preaching instead of playing." Then he went on to say, "We 
are not criticizing, because you deserve the guidance of the spirit in 
your mission, but be thoughtful and if you decide it is wrong to play 
ball any more, stop it." That is the way guidance comes, as I have 
experienced it, guidance full of love, understanding, and recognizing 
a man in his office half way around the world. 

Another incident the Book of Mormon translation into Japanese 

Elbert D. Thomas 149 

was about completed. Those who had worked the hardest got into a 
discussion over the translation of a given expression. The men came 
to me, and I took a stand different from either of them. Finally, it was 
decided to write the First Presidency. When the answer came, the 
First Presidency took a stand closer to my ideas than to the older 
men's. Immediately the two men accepted the advice of the Brethren, 
although it meant another whole year's work for both of them. 

A baseball incident the Tokyo-American team was made up of 
ministers, teachers, missionaries, and soldiers. We had a remarkable 
fan following. One of the most interesting of all the American 
bleacher-seaters was Bishop McKim, head of the American Episco 
palian Mission in Japan. I was not a good player, but after a game 
wherein I had made a lucky catch and throw, and thereby won a 
game, as we walked off the field, Bishop McKim came over and put 
his arm around my shoulders. No sweating player, even if he is 
supposed to love his neighbor, reacts very affectionately to any kind 
of embracing at the end of a game. But I was interested in what the 
old Bishop remarked, "Oh, we do love to watch you Mormon boys 
play baseball. Some day we may grow up and invite you to come and 
pray with us." What meaning was there! After that I knew we did 
not have to stop playing. 

I was President of the Japanese mission when Korea was annexed. 
The dedication of a land and a people to missionary work is some 
thing which our people take seriously. I was caught with a great 
question facing me. Did Korea belong to our mission as a result of a 
political action ? From the standpoint of pride I, of course, wanted to 
take in all I could, but the restraint which comes from following 
counsel kept me from annexing Korea to the Japan Mission. 

In 1911, the Minister of the Interior of Japan invited the leaders 
of all the religious sects in Japan to a conference. I was one. In his 
opening remarks he said the time had come in the development of 
Japanese nationalism for Japan to have a national religion and 
suggested that we work one out. I, of course, realize that the Minister 
did not quite mean it that way, but that is the way those of us from 
revelation-believing religions interpreted it. My answer was the same 
as most of the Christian, Jewish, and Mohammedan answers would 

150 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

have been, dominated by the concept of revelation which concept, o 
course, the Japanese Minister did not understand. My reply was, "Our 
religion is not made by man but by God. We believe that our religion 
is the best religion for the Japanese people. Therefore, we can take 
no part in trying to work out another." That seems harsh, but in the 
logic of authoritarian religions it is inevitable. 

In the First World War it became one of my duties to suggest cer 
tain Mormons when the Army became willing to commission as chap 
lains three or four Mormon elders. That incident marked in my life a 
really remarkable culmination in the recognition of our Church. I, of 
course, had no authority to appoint the men either in the Army or to 
represent my Church in their selection, but I was asked to recommend. 
I had been a National Guard officer for years. I knew the struggle in 
the attainment of a proper place for local officers in the national 
scheme and I knew also the feelings which the national government 
might have in regard to recognizing a Mormon elder as a properly 
trained minister. When the CCC camps came into existence, I again 
had a chance to suggest to the Army that well trained Mormon elders 
would make ideal chaplains, and they did. When the Second World 
War broke out and, as Chairman of the Military Affairs Committee, 
I sponsored the bill giving general officer's rank in the Army to the 
Chief of Chaplains, I did all I could to make the Chaplaincy a 
religious activity. 

When the coal mining industry was first started in Utah, Brigham 
Young sent missionaries to Wales and the coal mining part of 
England to gain converts. By my time these men had grown old but 
a few remained, and they were earnest members of the Church. I 
was called with troops during the general strike of 1922 to represent 
our Governor, when all of Utah's coal mines were put under martial 
law. The Governor had proclaimed that there should be no meetings. 
That, of course, meant schools and Sunday schools. Old Brother 
Llewellyn, who thought "Thomas" was a fine Welsh name until I 
told him it was Greek, came to me and pled the cause of the Sunday 
school children. I told him that the Governor's proclamation had 
to be obeyed, but that I was sure if I held a Sunday school the Gover 
nor would not get after me. Many labor leaders came to watch me. 

Elbert D. Thomas 151 

One of them went off saying, "It was interesting to see Major Thomas 
standing there talking about the Golden Rule, but never once taking 
his hand off his gat." I guess I did rest my hand on my revolver be 
cause there was no pulpit. The Sunday school incident caused me 
to be looked upon by the workers as a sort of a man of religion. 
These people away from a priest when death struck a loved one 
became almost hysterical. I had never had that experience before. I 
did not know what to do, but I felt that neither the Lord nor any 
righteous thinking man who directed any church would chastise 
me for assuming responsibility which was not mine. I sent all people 
who came to me home, telling them that, of course, we could not 
get a priest because all were miles away, but I promised to act for 
them just as I did for the Sunday school kiddies. I do not know yet 
whether I did wrong, but many a soul was grateful. 

Early in 1934, before I went to Germany on the Oberleander award. 
President Roosevelt called me to the White House because he knew 
I had been a missionary. The minor churches were having trouble 
with Hitler in Germany. My own Church was not having trouble, 
because a wise mission president was guiding affairs there. Roosevelt 
said, "Elbert, won't you tell me what to do in these cases?" And I 
did the best I could. It turned out all right and Hitler ceased abusing 
the minor sects. Great good came to our own people in Germany as 
a result of advice I was able to give later in regard to Church monies 
during the Hitler regime. The advice, which was followed, brought 
great benefit to the Mormon communities during the whole of the 
Second World War. The Mormon does not take pride in having 
accomplished any of these things. He credits to the guidance of the 
spirit whatever wisdom he seems to have at a given time. No one will 
ever understand the heart, the soul, or the actions of a Mormon, 
until he understands the fact that when once a Mormon gets the 
spirit and the responsibility of his priesthood, it is something which 
he never sheds. A partnership with God is not some vague expression 
to the Mormon boy. He accepts it literally. Throughout our experi 
ences in the Orient, incident after incident occurred which to me 
made reading of similar incidents in the Old and New Testaments 
seem natural and ordinary. This contributed constantly to religious 

152 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

reactions. The Bible stories became more vivid and more vital, and 
the need for my own religion in the world became more convincing. 

Before I was eighteen, when my mother and half of our family 
were in Europe collecting genealogical information, my father joined 
them, leaving me at home alone in charge of his businesses, as he 
told one of his friends, to teach me a sense of responsibility. That 
word again! 

It was taken for granted in my youth that anyone in a government 
office was a carpetbagger. Some great men came, as I judge them 
now, but most of them were men who were transferred from the 
South out to our Territory. Carpetbaggism was taken for granted. 
The flagpole on the corner where the Liberal Party members held 
their rallies, instead of having an eagle at its top, had a carpetbag 
for a symbol. 

In all my young days, strife was continuous, but no personal un 
friendliness occurred. But out in the world it was quite different. I 
have never been hurt physically through what is called religious 
persecution or racial bias. I can assure you that experience does not 
make the skin tougher. In political life, opportunity after opportunity 
presents itself to get even, but it is never a temptation. In business 
life, I know of only three persons or institutions who were outright 
unfriendly to my father when he was passing through depression 
days. I read of all three crashing to the wall with the most direful 
consequences, without producing in me a feeling of satisfaction, 
but rather with a feeling of sorrow. I have seen Passion plays a score 
of times, wept each time, but never has one aroused hate in me. By 
nature I have a hot temper, and I am easily hurt, but a life's training 
has taught me that Mencius is right, and man's better nature can be 
made to prevail. 

When I began the interpretation of history, I found that the Orient 
and my experiences in the Orient were so strong that I never left it 
out of my lectures or writings. To this day when it comes to religious 
questions, I interpret things from the fundamental thesis of my own 
Church. I have experienced the fire and water ceremonies of Shinto 
priests. I have seen the trances of the Dalai Lama priests. I have 
talked with various kinds of Buddhists. I have gone through the 

Elbert D. Thomas 753 

Nichiren ceremonies of the heart. I have heard stories of how foxes 
get into men and how they leave great holes. I have seen the crudities 
of primitive religions, and heard of many miraculous healings, 
visitations, and, when strangely visited by an unknown individual, 
I had all of those ideas go through my mind. I have never seen any 
thing or anyone, or gone through any experience that has caused me 
to change my faith. The philosophy behind what I call my religion 
is bigger and more all-embracing than any religious philosophy I have 
ever read. I sometimes think I see my own religion bigger and 
better than anyone else. But that cannot be a criticism of it. 

In looking over my early writings, I ran across this sentence under 
a Cairo, Egypt, 1913 date and place line. I have forgotten the stimulus 
for it but it seems to have a place right here. "Religions generally are 
broad but religionists often narrow. Their cocksureness is the egotism 
of the ignorant." Man seldom knows about himself, but that sentence 
seems to me to reflect me and what I have been through. But please 
do not ask me what I meant and what the sentence means, because I 
do not know. Some religions I have known are very narrow, and 
some religionists so broad they did not seem to care, know, or under 
stand anything. But some were narrow even to meanness, without 
having any reason to be. 

Mormon care for children and youths, Mormon ideals for young 
fathers and mothers, Mormon interest in all from cradle to grave, 
seem to imply that there are only so many seconds in eternity and if 
one is wasted, it is gone forever. I have never known leisure. I have 
always had three men's jobs. 

When I met Mr. Justice Brandeis he had read one of my books. He 
told me he was happy I got to Washington, but he added that he 
wanted to give me some advice. He said, "You know, Doctor, all that 
you have accomplished so far in your life you have done because you 
were able to get alone. Do not let anyone deprive you of solitude." 
Brandeis's advice was good, but the book he had read was produced 
in crowded hours. 

Life to me is merely a learning process. I have never held back 
from new experiences. All seemed to be part of my education. On 
arrival in Japan I decided not to read foreign books about Japan, but 

i$4 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

to learn from my own experiences. This may have been a mistake, 
but it has kept me objective. Had I not assumed that attitude, never 
would I have braved Chinese and Japanese scholarship in my inter 
pretation of Confucius. Had I not done this, the political East would 
have remained in my mind what Western writers had said it was. 

The day I returned home, after circling the globe, I was asked to 
become an instructor at the University of Utah. A professor died 
the day we returned and I was invited to take his classes. I stayed 
twenty years. 

In my legislative work, I have never been bothered by something I 
read out of a book. I learned my money economics from seeing and 
experiencing monies. I knew, for instance, that there was a difference 
between the silver in a tooth, the silver in a knife and fork, the silver 
in a dime, and the silver in the ground. When I explained this to 
President Roosevelt I pointed out that if he would give more for 
silver in the ground than he would for old silver, he could put men 
to work. Thus we got the differential for newly mined silver, and 
it did put men to work. That little lesson in simple economics has 
helped hundreds of thousands of people and created millions in 

I unconsciously discovered a world unity because I had to jnake 
my lectures on the Far East to graduate students fit into something 
they already knew. If I had been book-trained I would have been 
frightened of my thesis in World Unity Through Study of History. 
I am not frightened any more. 

One might get from this that I am not a supporter of formal 
education. This is not true. I took my doctorate after having lived in 
most of the capitals of Europe and Asia. My experiences were as 
broad as my instructors', but my whole graduate experience is one 
of the most satisfying of my life. 

Three experiences in the Senate which came early in my first term 
are responsible for adding to my worth as a Senator. These were the 
work on the Civil Liberties Committee and the "Huey Long Hear 
ings" the Overton contest case. It was in my first term that I be 
came a chairman of a major committee. This exceptional experience 
added greatly to my responsibilities. 

Elbert D. Thomas 155 

As an educator, I think my Oriental courses contributed to a field 
of instruction our American universities could not longer neglect. As 
a Senator I think I have contributed to educational history, for the 
three great important accomplishments that have happened in the 
world's educational history all happened in America. They are the 
selling of public lands to aid schools, the Land Grant College Act 
signed by President Lincoln, and my Soldier Education Bill as it 
passed the Senate. Millions of American boys and girls have now 
had training in practically every university in the world. Nothing 
like that ever happened before. 

I saw the first refugees arrive in Paris from the slave labor camps. 
Senator George and I visited General Eisenhower in his "little red 
brick school" headquarters. "Little red brick school" indeed! The 
atrocity camps, buzz bomb factories, and scores of other places in 
England, Belgium, France, and Germany, brought reactions to my 
thinking, but my Americanism and my Mormonism were the most 
shocked. Here was a man representing a religion and a nation whose 
fundamental principles are based upon the concept of the worth of 
the individual. I was invited to observe situations where individual 
rights, personal dignity, and governmental protection of the indi 
vidual, were shattered. Throughout the whole of the Orient, where 
the individual rights are not stressed, I had never seen such indiffer 
ence. Those experiences hurt me spiritually. 

I had another experience which brought to my mind the early 
prophecies concerning the origin of my Church. It had taken my 
father nearly six months to get from London to Salt Lake City. I 
circled the globe in seven months' time. The end of the European war 
came while I was in Europe. When I returned in a single flight, with 
only four landings, the lights came on for the first time in London, 
in Paris, and, as we flew down in Washington our own Capitol was 
lighted for the first time since the war started. A commonplace 
experience, but not commonplace to the man who as a child was 
trained to watch the development of a "glorious work and a won 

Later in 1945, President Truman asked me to go back to Europe. I 
was entitled to a secretary. I invited the young lady who later became 

1^6 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

Mrs. Thomas to go with me. From this came romance. But, romance, 
to the temple respecting Mormon that I was, had its religious signifi 
cance. The journey to Europe resulted in another great religious 
experience. It became my task to speak for the bringing of a newly 
created government, Iceland, into the sisterhood of nations and also 
to make a plea for, and to succeed in obtaining, Italy's first invitation 
to join again an international organization. The speech I made for 
Italy was carried over all of the Italian radio stations. I was invited 
by the Holy Father to go to the Vatican, and by the Kong Regent 
to visit Rome. We had our own plane, with military and official 
attendants, totaling a group of about twenty-nine. I asked for a 
Mormon chaplain, but ended with three Roman Catholics, the senior, 
Colonel Turner, was the chaplain of President Truman's regiment in 
the First World War. Our party was a serious group. My thoughts 
during the journey were religious. For example, in an hour's talk 
with the King Regent, he attempted to maintain the thesis that 
bread for the Italian people was the thing that could hold his govern 
ment together. I gave him the sermon "man cannot live by bread 
alone," and I told him that his government would not last, unless it 
was built on spiritual and educational bases. 

The journey to the Vatican and the visit with the Holy Father was 
an outstanding experience of my life. We were alone for nearly half 
an hour. His goodness, his concern, his worldwide understanding, his 
desire for peace and decent living for all people, impressed me so 
gready that my heart radiated his thoughts and words. After our 
conference, the Holy Father invited our whole group into his office, 
my future wife being the only lady present. The Holy Father read 
a gracious speech, centering around Elbert Thomas's work for peace. 
I was moved. As we were leaving, the Holy Father said he would 
like to give me a gift as a souvenir of our visit. I very frankly told 
him that if he was going to give me a gift, he would have to give me 
three, because I had three daughters. He gave me for them three 
white pearl rosaries and he also gave Miss Evans three. This experi 
ence marked for me not the beginning of meetings with great reli 
gious personages, and, as I review the great ones that I have met and 
the systems which they represent, I end where I begin, in deep respect 

Elbert D. Thomas 157 

for the simple words of Joseph Smith and the meaning of his first 
vision. To me it represents the greatest vision ever given to man, and 
Joseph Smith's own words in describing that vision are the most 
convincing scriptures I have read. 

I had known the great Nicolai, the Russian who went to Japan in 
1858 and established the Eastern Church there. Later I met the 
Patriarch of Jerusalem. My Confucian studies gave me an under 
standing of the difference between a belief based upon revelation and 
one based upon the wisdom of man. I had known the chief abbot of 
the Hon Kwanji Temple. His utter disdain of the body contrasted 
greatly with my Mormon and American respect for the sacredness of 
the human body. The abbot and I stood in front of an expensive 
coffin, bought in anticipation of the death of a rich man. His only 
remark was, "What a price to pay for something to put a smelling 
body in.'* 

The story of Daruma and the contemplative priests, who live as 
Daruma taught, never satisfied me. I had accepted too fully the 
theory of revelation, ever to assume that I could sit down and think 
out the riddle of the universe. Shinto leaves me with a hollow 

While I learned to admire the spirituality of both Hinduism and 
Mohammedanism, one left me feeling that a caste destroyed respect 
for the individual, and the other's history, not its beliefs, presented 
elements of religious zeal that ended in militancy. Not a day in the 
Orient passed without some religious reaction. Wherever I have gone, 
whatever I have done, even in my own land and in Europe, I have 
faced prejudices. I have tried always to appreciate and to learn. 

In so rapid a review I have been unfair to all, including my own 
belief. I, in no case, belittle. The faith displayed by adherents of all 
religions is inspiring, and invokes appreciative respect in me. But I 
am left unsatisfied. My own religion, if I view it as something 
finished, does not satisfy either. But it is only a commencement of a 
great promised fulfilment, for is there not a need for a rebirth of the 
teachings of Jesus? Where in the world today do you find a complete 
fulfilment of the ideals of the Lord's prayer and the Sermon on the 
Mount? When I say that, I do not depreciate the worth of fine reli- 

jj<5 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

gions and splendid religious teachings, but the need of rebirth is every 
where. To me the world still lacks what a Jew would call justice; 
what a Christian would call love; what a Confucianist would call 
trust; what a Buddhist would call aspiration and a ridding of life's 
chains; what a Taoist would call a beginning of the understanding 
of the way; what a Zoroastrian would call that which makes you do 
for your neighbor what you would do for yourself. There is nothing 
in all of these systems of religion that could make me feel that mine 
was bad. Was there ever a people any poorer than my own people 
were in the beginning? It seems natural for me to say that all that 
they are today their religion made them. As an historian, an econo 
mist, and a political scientist, I know that there were other factors, 
especially the factor of America itself which contributed to what my 
people have made of themselves. But that does not make me unmind 
ful of the fact that my father's life and my mother's life and my own 
life have each been made what they were and are by our religion. I 
have full faith that my children and my children's children will see 
as I do "this nation under God" as the source of mankind's political 
and spiritual redemption. 


To be born into a family which has produced men of great 
learning and of outstanding gifts of leadership can have a stunting 
effect upon the growing and maturing mind especially as such assets 
are not passed on in the manner of some material goods. Fortunate are 
the children of such families if they are not made to feel the pressure 
of their heritage and if no unusual demands are made on them. 
Such was the spiritual milieu into which I was born. (My account 
will, therefore, include the influences exerted upon me by the three 
ancestors who were closest to me.) 

The first time my curiosity was aroused in the history of our 
family was when in our travels we stopped off in Warsaw and 
visited the burial ground where my father's father had been laid to 
his eternal rest. The monument was a turretlike mausoleum sur 
rounded by a low iron fence. Within the enclosure, the ground was 
strewn with pamphlets and papers yellowed with age. In the stillness 
of the ah" and the fervent attitude of father, there was the tremor of 
bygone years. The Hebrew characters on the slips expressed the 
urgent supplications and innermost yearnings of people who sought 
relief in their personal distress through the merit of the Good Deeds 
the deceased had performed in his lifetime. It was then that I 
learned that my grandfather had been a TzaddiT^ a man who 
devoted all his life to study, to prayer and to the service of his fellow- 
men. He was the man who had trained a generation of the most 


160 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

outstanding Rabbinic scholars and leaders dispersed over Eastern 
Europe and other parts o the world. 

My grandfather, Rabbi Naphtali-Zvi Yehuda Berlin called for 
short the Naziv (from the contraction of the initials), a word mean 
ing "governor" in Hebrew, came of a family that combined wealth 
with learning. At the age of twelve, he was admitted to the Yeshiva 
of Volozhin, which was the center of Jewish learning in the nine 
teenth century. He was a student of great ability and extraordinary 
application, and in a few years he became the son-in-law of the son 
of Rabbi Chayyim, the founder of the Academy and a member of the 
Dynasty, the term used to refer to the family. At the age of thirty- 
seven, the Naziv succeeded his deceased father-in-law as the head of 
the institution. 

About grandfather's diligence, many stories bordering on the 
legendary, have been told. He would devote eighteen hours a day to 
study. To get some snatches of sleep, he would close his eyes holding 
a lighted candle of such a length that it could burn only fifteen 
minutes, then the burning sensation at the tip of his fingers would 
awaken him and he would resume his work. Such tales, however, 
do not illustrate the mode of life the Naziv would prescribe for the 
Yeshiva men. Of course, a student must not waste his time on worth 
less matters, but the Head would recommend habitual hours for 
sleep and regular times for meals. In his book, From Volozhin to 
]erusalem t my father relates that grandfather was overheard saying 
to a very studious boy, "You devote so many hours to your books 
that you have no time to digest and master the material. If you allow 
more time for rest and meals, you will be able to fathom the mean 
ing of what you have learned." Nevertheless, the voice of the Torah 
was never silenced in the hall of learning. There were always students 
who were bent over their books late at night, and others would come 
in after midnight and stay there undisturbed till early dawn. The 
only break in the monotony was the radiant appearance of the head 
of the school. When the town was soundly sleeping and enveloped 
in darkness, and the "old man" in his study was deeply engrossed 
in the big folios before him, he would suddenly rise from his place 
startled by some poignant recollection. He would close the tome, 

Judith Berlin Ueberman 161 

leave his house, and with resolute steps proceed in the direction of 
the "Holy Place of Study.*' He knew that many of his "children" 
would be pondering over the Talmud. He would walk the length 
and breadth of the large hall, take a good look at each figure, and 
pause over a youth who, overcome by drowsiness and heat, had dozed 
off in front of a burning charcoal fire. Grandfather would waken 
him with a gentle touch and warn him of the danger of a hot fire. 
He was anxious lest the overheated boy should take a cold drink and 
get chilled. There was hardly time to sound all these warnings when 
some hesitant steps were heard and a young student, who had been 
struggling with a difficult text, approached him. Grandfather, with 
kindness in his eyes and the friendly smile that always hovered on 
his lips, would gendy stroke the young cheeks and patiently elucidate 
the difficult passage. 

It is very likely that grandfather's reputation as a pedagogue has ob 
scured his significance as a scholar. The spoken word can be heard 
and the magic of personality felt, but many years must elapse before 
the written word can be understood. Grandfather placed truth above 
all, and no trouble was too much for him to seek it. In those days, 
when modern research was unknown amongst Rabbinic scholars, 
and extensive travel unusual, he went by train to the capital of Rus 
sia to look for a manuscript of the work of Rab Ahai Gaon a medi 
eval scholar and purchased it for a large sum of money. Unlike 
other Rabbinic scholars of his age, grandfather in his great com 
mentary on Rab Ahai first tried to reconstruct the historical back 
ground and to correlate the work of Rab Ahai to those of the later 
codifiers of the Law, primarily to that of Maimonides. 

One of the most impressive facts of the truly great Rabbinic minds 
was that their preoccupation with the study of the Torah never ob 
structed their view from the national needs of their people. Toward 
the end of the nineteenth century, when the idea of "Return to Zion" 
was still new, grandfather gave theoretical and practical expression 
to his support of the movement that later became known as the 
"Lovers of Zion." He found occasion to express his convictions on 
this head, in connection with the explication of certain passages of 
the Bible in his monumental Commentary. According to the Naziv, 

162 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

there is no place where the relation between the Creator and His peo 
ple is as close as in the Land of Israel. The Jew can live a complete 
religious life only in the land of his Fathers, because a great part of 
the Law is applicable only to the Land of Israel When the question 
of the Sabbatical year in Palestine arose, grandfather, moderate by 
disposition, insisted upon strict observance of the laws because he said, 
"We are ready for sacrifices not merely for the sake of furnishing the 
Land of the Philistines with inhabitants, but in order to settle the 
Holy Land with men devoted to the worship of the Almighty and 
the observance of His Commandments." No practical measures were 
too humble for the realization of this dream. A coin box was placed 
at the entrance of the hall on the eve of the Atonement services (an 
innovation in those days) and with grandmother's blessing, the son 
of his old age (the subsequent leader, Rabbi Meir Berlin) was put in 
charge of the collection. 

Grandfather's second wife, my grandmother, was his close blood 
relation and twenty-five years his junior. The unusual match came 
about in the most extraordinary manner. Grandmother's fine bear 
ing, personal charm, and intelligence attracted many suitors. She, 
however, had set up as her ideal her own scholarly father, Rabbi 
Michael Eppstein, author of many books that had become part of 
the standard equipment of those who practiced Jewish Law. She 
consented to marry a man of fine appearance and of considerable 
means, with the implicit understanding that he would devote time 
to gaining proficiency in the Torah. The young woman soon realized, 
however, that her husband had no penchant for the arduous task 
though he made an attempt. She felt she could not go on living a 
life of frustration. No pleading on the part of the young man (and of 
both families) could dissuade her from leaving him and hiding for 
months to escape the Russian law according to which the spouse 
had the legal right to force his wife's return. Finally the divorce 
was granted to her, and she returned to her parents' home strength 
ened in her determination to live a life that had inner meaning. 
Shortly after, an honored guest arrived from Volozhin with personal 
greetings from grandfather. When the conversation turned to family 
affairs, the visitor, realizing the wilfulness of the young woman, 

Judith Berlin Lieberman 163 

boldly suggested a match between uncle and niece. The parents were 
shocked nor could grandfather see his niece binding herself to a man 
many years her senior. The only one who welcomed the strange pro 
posal was the beautiful and spirited woman. Months passed before 
the niece met her uncle, whom she had never seen before, and every 
body felt that it was the hand of God when the union was shortly 

Grandmother, who was mother and pal to me the four years I was 
stranded at her house and later when she lived with us in New York, 
would keep me spellbound with the stories of her glorious past. In 
discreet as youngsters sometimes are, I asked her (as I blush even 
now to recall) whether she had ever regretted the decision about her 
marriage. There was something in her brown eyes and proud bearing 
which spoke of her happiness more eloquendy than words could. 
Grandmother lived a full life, happy in the role of a helpmeet to the 
great man who was her life companion, content with the man who 
took great care of his appearance and was lovable in every way. 
Grandmother took complete charge of the finances of the institution, 
which in itself was a great challenge to her ability. Almost all the 
fellows and they numbered 400-500 studied on a scholarship basis, 
and in order to free them of all mundane cares, their board and 
lodging were paid for. As a matter of fact, the Academy was the 
town's principal source of income. Harassed as grandmother was 
by these financial responsibilities, she had the satisfaction of being 
the mistress of a large household and the queen of the town. 

About twenty years later, when I lived under grandmother's roof, 
the changed conditions did not affect grandmother's way of life. 
As the wife of a prosperous merchant and patron of learning (she 
had married again), she still assumed responsibility for the well-being 
of the townspeople and her house was always open to those in need 
of advice and financial aid. In keeping with Jewish tradition, the 
poor girl of marriageable age, the sick in need of medication, and 
the small businessman in times of economic depression, all claimed 
her special attention. With fires frequent and devastating in those 
districts of dense forests and straw-thatched roofs, many a Jew who 
had been rendered destitute, would be aided by her systematic plan 

164 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

of action. At a still later period, in Jerusalem, when grandmother 
reached the ripe age of eighty years, I was startled more than once 
by a hand (that was all I could see of the person in question) reach 
ing from the outside for its share of the Sabbath loaves which had 
been lined up in a neat row on the window sill. 

Amidst all this activity the grand old lady kept up her lively interest 
in men of learning and in the study of the Bible. She appeared to pre 
fer the company of learned men to the prattle of women. She con 
sidered her day's work done only after she had covered a day's por 
tion from the Torah and the Prophets. In winter her self-imposed 
assignment was the Book of Proverbs and in summer the Sayings of 
the Fathers. She was guided by these wise teachings in her personal 
conduct. She would overlook the failings of others and disparaging 
remarks about other people's doings would elicit from her the mild 
warning, "Do not judge your neighbor until you have been in his 

She accepted the values of the new times and found fault with 
the past. "We girls were not taught like the boys, we were treated like 
a flock of sheep," she would complain of her early education. Though 
she valiantly tried to overcome her ignorance of the English tongue 
by taking private lessons and working hard on the th's, she felt un 
happy because she could not master it. She followed my scholastic 
career with great satisfaction. If she ever had any feeling of envy it 
was, she remarked, for the opportunity the American woman had 
and the equality she enjoyed with the other sex. Her greatest ful 
filment she found in her only son (the elder having passed away) 
and the relationship between mother and son was that of mutual 
understanding, deep love, and on the part of the son a certain 
element of awe. 

In an attempt to sketch the main features of father's personality, 
elusive as they are (because the inner light he radiated diverts atten 
tion from the details), it becomes more and more obvious that the 
feeling of regard and consideration was the basic note in father's 
attitude to all fellow beings. Just as his belief in God was untroubled 
by any doubts, his trust in people was unshaken by any experience 
he might have had. Because of his fundamental fortitude, everybody 

Judith Berlin Ueberman 765 

around 'him seemed to gather courage and strength, and the impos 
sible became possible, and the unreal real. Being the prime force be 
hind Religious Zionism, and in any undertaking he associated him 
self with, his advice was always sought in times of crisis and his 
presence was essential in hours of weighty decisions. 

If father ever transgressed any commandment of the Torah, it was 
the prohibition against favoring the poor. Of course, I do not mean 
that he showed bias in their favor in judging lawsuits, to which the 
passage hi question (Leviticus 19:15) refers. But when there were 
people waiting for him in his office, it seemed as if his eye first recog 
nized the one who sought his counsel, for among the host who sought 
him (besides those who conferred with him on matters pertaining to 
his party, the upkeep of many institutions of learning, promotion 
of journalistic and cultural enterprises) there were those who needed 
his personal help, whether in the nature of material or spiritual as 
sistance. Nobody was turned away either at the office or his residence. 
"A man is a man," was his attitude, and no personal inconvenience 
to him or to his family, or threat to his declining health could re 
strict his activity. Regardless of his heavy schedule, he would per 
sonally contact endless lists for others when he was on his frequent 
(organizational) trips to distant parts of the world. To the public 
at large he appeared in the light of a great leader with a knack of 
stirring hundreds and thousands of people with the thundering 
quality of his voice, originality of thought, and fine delivery. In con 
trast to the soft-spoken man that he usually was, he would display 
a leonine pugnacity. Both his followers and anti-Zionists harkened 
as to one who spoke with the voice of tradition of the spirit of Israel. 
Though all his life he fought for a united Judaism and stood above 
party interests, he was the leader of the Religious front that wrested 
concessions from the Center Parties and the Laborites within the 
Zionist Organization. His stand was rooted in the vision of a Jewish 
State built on the principle of Torah-true Judaism and the spiritual 
values that have come down to us from the Prophets and the Rabbis. 
His firm conviction was that unless a majority of our people lives on 
the land promised by God and speaks the language in which the 
Bible was given, they are doomed to an existence barren of Jewish 

166 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

content and to ultimate loss of identity. Being both the man of 
action and the student, he could turn out a prodigious amount of 
work, no intrusions ever disturbing his serene flow of thought. He 
was the editor of the Talmudic Encyclopedia and the promoter of a 
new edition of the Talmud. Disregarding his physical weakness, 
he would stealthily disappear into his study at night and write long 
articles and essays for various publications with hardly any correction 
to mar the long white sheets of paper. Being one of the architects of 
the new State, he strove to promote legislation in the light of the 
Tor ah and on the basis of democracy. His political creed was per 
meated with a new hope for the future of the whole of mankind, and 
he envisaged American democracy and freedom of thought and 
speech established all over the world. 

Father's attitude toward his children was "live and let live*" No 
books were recommended that a parent felt children ought to read; 
no restrictions were made as to the choice of friends or places visited. 
At times the impression was created that father had little time to 
worry over his children's problems. As I look back, I can see that 
father jealously watched over his children's doings though in the 
most unobtrusive way, as if allowing the young wings to unfold 
spontaneously. Want of over-protection early developed in me a 
sense of self-reliance and helped me to stand up to the trials of unusual 
circumstances in which I early found myself. 

Throughout childhood there was the keen awareness of God, the 
Protector watching over our personal fortunes. The feeling was in 
culcated in us when my sister, having fallen through the broken 
bannister of a wooden shed escaped with slight injuries, or when she 
was restored to us after having been lost amid a hustling crowd on 
our arrival hi a metropolis. When we joined father in Berlin, shordy 
before the outbreak of the First World War, the struggle for economic 
existence could not escape the attention of the youngsters. Though 
mother came from an affluent family, the dowry she had received was 
soon lost to a partner in a business venture in which father showed 
no interest. Our small apartment served as office for the promoter, 
editor, and journalistall three combined in father of the first 
Hebrew weekly in the German capital. Mother was the clerk, more 

Judith Berlin Lieberman i6j 

hindered than assisted by me in the work of stamping envelopes 
and mailing the papers at the nearest post office. On Fridays our home 
would invariably assume a new glory, and all worry would disappear 
as if by magic. Dressed in our best, we would impatiendy await 
father's return from the synagogue accompanied by the angels who 
were to usher hi the Sabbath, the day of complete rest. Soon the 
sweet melody of "Peace Upon You" filled the air followed by 
"Virtuous Wife" in tribute to the mistress of the house. For it was 
she who on a snow white tablecloth had lit the Sabbath candles and 
prepared the fish and the coffee cake, the taste of which made us 
hanker for it the rest of the week. 

It was left to mother, a graduate of a secondary school with a 
deep appreciation for good education, to supervise our formal train 
ing. Mother, far from resting on the laurels of the past, had great 
ambitions for her children. We were put into schools of reputable 
standing. The method of teaching the three R's may have had its 
merits, but little attempt was made to stir the pupil's imagination or 
allow for individual differences. Nor could the private teacher, to 
whom our Hebrew education was entrusted often at the price of a 
third of father's salary, awaken a lively interest in the matter taught. 
A Hebrew poet of note or a student of Semitics, who was thought 
most likely to succeed, could not be expected to give thought to the 
presentation of a passage in the Bible. As a result a stare of blank 
boredom was often concealed behind lowered eyelids. 

I leave it to recognized authorities to determine the effects of the 
world wars and the resulting political upheavals on the forming of 
the personalities of our generation. The monstrosity of Hitler and 
the annihilation of all "inferior" peoples cut into the very being of a 
Jew. The rebirth of the Jewish State brought an upsurge of feeling 
and hope for mankind. By mere chance my personal fortunes were 
early bound up with the momentous happenings in the world. Having 
urged father to take me, a third-grader, on what was intended to 
be a two weeks' visit to my grandmother in Lithuania, a series of 
Odyssean adventures began. On the day we were to cross the border 
back to Berlin, war was declared. After months of waiting, our 
attempts to return together and rejoin the rest of the family in 

168 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

Stockholm by the northern route were foiled by the good advice of a 
chance acquaintance not to expose a child to a voyage on icy waters. 
As I was left in the care of grandmother, my life took on something 
of an epic quality. I recall a covered wagon with the load of grand 
mother, her husband, myself, and some earthly possessions slowly 
moving through a blizzard in the wake of retreating Russian regi 
ments into the capital of White Russia. Vivid are the recollections 
of the rejoicing of old and young after the fall of tyranny and the 
exalted spirits with which the new era was awaited. Important 
to mental growth was access to a private library that contained the 
best of the world classics. Tolstoy, London, Byron, were read avidly 
and the morbid characters of Dostoievski were gleeful topics for 
lengthy discussion by adolescent girls. I sought answers to the 
questions "how" and "why," in pictorial abridged editions of Darwin 
and Haeckel. But whereas the young minds gloried in the rationalis 
tic approach to the creation of the world, whereas all tradition was 
discarded with ease, I found reassurance in the memory of grand 
father standing on the eve of Yom Kippur on the threshold of the 
House of Learning and asking for forgiveness of those whom he 
had harmed unwittingly. There was also the feeling of spiritual 
nearness to father and mother beckoning to me from across the seas 
of the New World where they had settled, and strengthening me in 
my beliefs. 

My reunion with my father after the armistice in 1918 was an 
overpowering experience. Coming home to the blessed shores of the 
United States was a most welcome relief from the complex system of 
passports and other restrictions on personal liberty in Russia. New 
life began and new interests were awakened. At Columbia University 
the study of the principles of democracy underlying the political 
order of the New World and the constitutional history of the United 
States and of nationalistic movements with Muzzey and Hayes, 
respectively, inspired me to make a study of the doctrines of liberation 
in the light of English literature. Inspiring were the seminars of 
Professor Bernard Fehr, head of the English department at Zurich 
University and formerly of Cambridge, England. Professor Fehr, 
who was the rare combination of a brilliant scholar and an artistic 

Judith Berlin Lieberman 169 

temperament, could draw with masterly strokes the Englishmen of 
letters and men of thought, and in his lectures poets such as Milton 
and Blake came to life again. It was at that time that I began to 
question the reliability of some footnotes made to Robert Browning's 
poems which had been inspired by Jewish sources. Whereas the 
commentators relegated some of the verses to pure "fancy," they 
were in truth images taken from the Midrashic and Talmudic 
treasures. In particular one poem entitled, "Ben Karshook," which 
is omitted from many selections of the poet's works, led me to look 
for parallelisms between the writings of the English poet and Hebraic 
lore. The remarkable similarity in the story of Rabbi Perida between 
the wording of the poet and a passage in the Talmud inspired me to 
delve into the poet's past, to scan through the complete list of books 
found in his private library as catalogued by Sotheby & Company, to 
inspect the Hebrew writing in the original manuscripts in the 
Bodleian Library and to come across an unrecorded manuscript of 
his father's commentary on the Bible. 

My interest in Hebrew learning was further stimulated by life 
and work in Jerusalem, marriage to a scholar, and educational work 
in the United States. Life and work in Jerusalem required the 
harnessing of all human power in the country. In the twenties 
immigration laws permitted thousands of young men and women to 
enter the Land where they hoped to see the fulfilment of the Promise 
given to the Fathers of the Jewish people. The vision of a People 
with all its attributes never looked brighter. Neither limitation of 
funds nor restriction of space could deter the new generation from 
breaking up their homes and setting forth to Zion, where the name, 
David, was to mean again inner strength and implicit trust in God 
and the memory of Sarah, the protecting arms of a mother. The 
hold of a ship could be miraculously stretched. Money was procured 
with the willing assistance of more fortunate passengers. The blue 
skies were a marvelous setting for merry song and gay laughter. On 
one such voyage, we exchanged our berths for deck chairs so that the 
difference in the cost could be applied to purchasing additional 
tickets for new immigrants. The arrival at Tel-Aviv or Haifa was 
heralded by more song and carefree laughter. The stucco buildings 

170 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

exhaled warmth o temperature and warmth of feeling and the 
sidewalks resounded with the noisy, hurried clatter of footsteps and 
the hubbub of voices. There was no time for sleep. Structures rose 
like mushrooms, and new enterprises blossomed overnight. 

People with some systematic training in the fields of pedagogy were 
absorbed by the expanding communities. Teaching of European 
history and literature at a teacher's training school for girls, whose 
cultural backgrounds and training were as varied as the countries 
they came from, presented a great challenge to an inexperienced 
teacher like myself. There was excellent material from Western 
Europe, but haunted by the memory of broken families, and the 
shadows of the dead. There were girls of darker shades from North 
African countries, whose families abandoned their cavelike dwellings 
and set out on their long trek to Zion on a donkey. One such girl 
lost her father when he fell off the donkey while stumbling through 
the sands of the desert and reached Jerusalem with a sick mother and 
three smaller children to care for. The equipment of their one-room 
dwelling consisted of makeshift mattresses and sacks of burlap for 
protection against the cold winds. 

At the completion of a four-year course all differences were ironed 
out and after rigorous finals in Bible, Prophets, Hebrew Literature, 
and pedagogy, the graduates were competent enough to staff schools 
in both large and small settlements set up by the Education Depart 
ment of the Jewish Agency. 

The recollections of my visit to the communal settlements are most 
vivid. These settlements are a form of life that can hardly be found 
anywhere else. Private interests were entirely subordinated to the 
good of the community. The house became the property of the 
collective, and the tractor was acquired with the pooled resources of 
all members. In the Mizrachi communities, one of which was named 
after my grandfather, "The Well of Naziv," prayers were said at 
dawn and after a heavy day's work, young faces and eager eyes were 
bent over the large folios in the pallid light of the barn. Sabbath was 
a day of complete rest, and the milking of the cows was permitted in 
order to bring relief to the animal, though the milk could not be 
drunk or put to any use. The greatest favor asked of a visitor was 

Judith Berlin Lieberman iji 

the negative of a snapshot taken by the American camera. The 
objects to be snapped were in the following order of importance: 
first the cow and plough, then the newborn baby, and finally the 
adult. Most of the children were, as in other communes in Israel, 
blue-eyed and fair-haired. 

The radically changed conditions in the thirties presented new 
challenges and called for new educational projects. In an air charged 
with tension, when shots were heard intermittently, and many victims 
were felled by Arab snipers, it became imperative to found all-day 
nurseries to enable mothers to take the places of their husbands on 
duty elsewhere. I felt that the obligation to establish such institutions 
in Jerusalem especially for religious groups, fell on me. We organized 
all-day summer play schools to care for undernourished children who 
in peaceful time might have vacationed on Mt. Carmel or on the 
shores of the Mediterranean. Though additional activity was accom 
panied by physical hardships, there was the satisfaction that an 
earnest effort was being made to prevent the lifelong ill-effects that 
are known to have resulted to the mind and body of some of the 
youthful population from the disturbed conditions of those years. A 
most rewarding project was the founding of a dormitory for the young 
women at tie Mizrachi Teachers' Training School for Girls, who 
with limited means of their own could find congenial living condi 
tions and be assured of a bright future as career women in their own 
country and in many distant lands such as India, where the need 
for trained Hebrew teachers was very great. 

In 1940, I returned to the United States with my husband after 
days of flying over the sandy wastes of the Middle East, a stop-over 
at the British oil wells of Bahrein and days spent at Bombay. My 
return made me painfully conscious of the sad fact that the world 
at large had still to learn much from America. Though "the idea and 
example" of America had invaded the world, the virtues of political 
freedom and belief in personal liberty still had to be accepted by 
many countries in order to make democracy work. We received a 
hearty welcome from the customs officer in New York who had 
heard of the great institution of learning to which my husband had 
been called. Subsequent association with men and women of high 

IJ2 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

moral qualities and great scholastic attainments, and lifelong friend 
ships which have been formed, have mitigated any hardship which 
might be felt by the wife of a scholar wholly devoted to study and 
research. Precious have been the moments to me when my husband 
has been able to tear himself away from his work in order to illumi 
nate the gleanings of Jewish treasures not only with his erudition but 
with the moral strength drawn from the wealth of Torah that has 
motivated every action of his life. 

My husband, though by nature disinclined to express his personal 
beliefs, has brought to bear upon me, by his mode of living and 
conduct, the great force that Torah has been in the destiny of our 
people and in the lives of Jews as individuals. He helped me to gain 
an insight into the role that the Jews play as individuals and as a 
people in the community of nations. 

Jews have survived anguish and physical torment because they 
were imbued with the teachings of the Torah. They knew that the 
cause for which they were suffering was worthy of their sacrifice. 
Thus suffering, instead of breaking them, gave them spiritual depth 
and strength and even satisfaction, as it frequently does to people of 
noble character. A striking example of this phenomenon was the 
reaction of the German Jews to the events of the nineteen thirties. In 
most cases it was those who were ignorant of or estranged from their 
spiritual heritage that committed suicide. Those who had preserved 
Jewish learning and observance found the strength to go elsewhere 
and take roots in a new environment. 

In Jewry, the Torah has been an affair of the masses. The Torah 
specifically commands every Jew to study it, and the passage in 
question is included in the Shema, which every Jew repeats twice 
daily: "And ye shall teach them (the words of the Torah) to your 
children, talking of them, when thou sittest in thy house, and when 
thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou 
risest up 55 (Deuteronomy 11:19). For since the Jewish people was 
chosen by God to keep His commandments, the Jewish people 
must spend all the time it can studying His commandments. 

How this peculiar feature struck the eye of an outsider is eloquently 
attested by a German officer who was interested in biblical studies. 

Judith Berlin Ueberrnan 17 j 

While serving in the German Intelligence Office in Warsaw during 
the First World War, this writer records, his office learned that some 
thing very mysterious was going on in the Jewish section. It was 
said that coachmen would come one after another without passengers 
and disappear mysteriously into a certain courtyard. The writer 
continues that he went to investigate for himself and arriving at the 
place in question with two detectives, stood and watched. It was 
true. Coachman after coachman was driving in with no passengers 
in his cab. All of them disappeared into a courtyard into which the 
scholarly writer followed. He finally came into one of the upper 
stories of the building. There he opened the door and saw two long 
tables, surrounded by coachmen who were sitting in their high hats, 
bent over books, and listening attentively to a man who was ex 
pounding something. The officer realized at once that there could 
be no question about a plot being fomented against the government. 
Nevertheless, he stood, dazed. He reports that he remained motion 
less, observing the occupants of the room without being able to 
comprehend what was going on. Finally he motioned to one of the 
listeners, for until then no one had even taken notice of the in 
truders. Utilizing his imperfect knowledge of Yiddish, the officer 
asked the Jew, "What is this?" "Why, this is a synagogue," the Jew 
replied. The officer repeated his question, "What is this?" "Why, 
they are sitting and studying the Law." The officer asked, "Is today 
Yom Kippur, a holy day?" "No," the Jew said, "This is what we 
do every day." "You mean to say that every day you come here and 
listen to a lecture on the law?" "Why, certainly," the Jew said. 
"After a hard day's work?" "Yes, that is what we do." The officer 
was convinced, and he concludes his account saying: "It is amazing. 
It is unthinkable. It is inconceivable that German drivers should 
come every day to the University and listen to lectures on law!" The 
officer, of course, could only have realized dimly, if at all, what 
the Torah had meant to the Jews through the ages, how, like a lone 
beacon, it alone had relieved some very gloomy pages of Jewish 
history, and how the Jew clung to it and found comfort in it. 

It was this evaluation of the Torah that strengthened me in my 
resolution to do my small share in the restoration of Zion, the 

IJ4 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

center whence Torah shall come forth. Early in my college career, 
I joined the Mizrachi Organization, the Orthodox branch o the 
Zionist movement, of which my father was the leader. The essence 
of Mizrachi ideology is: Israel restored on the principles of the 
Torah. Such doctrines as universal brotherhood of man in God's 
image, the Messianic dream of permanent peace, the doctrine of the 
sovereignty of every soul as expressed in the complete physical rest 
on the Sabbath, are to the Mizrachi the conditio sine qua non for the 
structure of the Jewish State. An Israeli whose only cultural mark is 
the ability to speak Hebrew would be an Israeli bereft of all the other 
spiritual values which have come down to us. In order to build for 
the future, we must return to the past. 

In the capacity of national political chairman of the Mizrachi 
Women's Organization, I have been called upon to clarify our stand 
in the political setup of the Zionist Organization. The central idea of 
building a Jewish State on the land of our Fathers is common to all 
Zionists. Just as the essence of sugar is sweetness to all human beings, 
so Zionism is to all Zionist parties the restoration of the Jewish State. 
The lump of sugar, however, can also convey a variety of meanings. 
Whereas to the peasant it is sweetness only, to the physician it is 
primarily a means of nutrition. Moreover, to the industrialist it is 
a substance to be exploited for industrial purposes, and to the chemist 
it conveys a distinct chemical formula. Yet the sweetness of sugar 
remains the basic feature to all. In the same way, the restoration of 
Israel has to the Mizrachi, besides the meaning common to all, an 
additional significance. This is an Israel based on its spiritual heritage. 
Roots steeped in the past give the State not only a firm hold on the 
present, but lend to it that spiritual content which makes its existence 

The practical work carried on by the Mizrachi Women's member 
ship has been in the direction of establishing projects in Israel where 
cultural possessions could be transmitted in the most up-to-date 
fashion and in an adequate physical environment. The institutions 
in Israel established by the Mizrachi Women's Organization of 
America, whether they are schools, where all kinds of vocations are 
taught, or whether they are children's villages and social welfare 

Judith Berlin Lieberman 175 

centers, take great pride in their lovely exteriors, progressive approach 
to education, and Jewish spiritual content. As a member of the 
National Administrative Board of the organization, it has been 
incumbent upon me to share the task with other members to guide 
those thousands of co-workers who have dedicated themselves to the 
practical aspect of our work. 

As \ look back upon the latter years of my New York period, I 
become keenly aware that my preoccupation with the Bible, Prophets, 
and Commentaries has given me a great deal of inner satisfaction. It 
was also in a sense a fulfilment of my nostalgia for these subjects 
which in the past did not form the central theme in the education of 
girls. I consider it a great privilege to have been instrumental in 
elevating the teaching of Bible and the traditional commentaries to 
their rightful place in the curriculum of the Shulamith School for 
Girls. This institution, founded by a group of parents and friends, 
wholeheartedly devoted both to the ideas of American democracy and 
to the Jewish heritage, has been inspiringly successful in carrying out 
an integrated program of bilingual cultural experience. The name, 
Shulamith, which is that of the heroine of the Song of Songs, and the 
motto of the school, "Return, oh, Return," are evocative of the 
spirit which has formed the curriculum of the school. The revival 
of the study of sources on the elementary level meets the desperate 
need for filling the void felt by the Jewish child the desire for roots, 
the yearning to "belong." In the Bible, the child learns of the 
beginnings of his own history, of the pride and greatness of a people, 
acquires a knowledge of and love for the Hebrew tongue, and 
encounters situations which help him resolve his own difficulties. 

The wholesome tendency to integrate the past with the present is 
illustrated by the following incident at one of the Bible classes on 
the adolescent level. The teacher explained the meaning of "Do not 
gossip," and how base it is to engage in gossip, a vice which tends 
to befall the idle. The following day, in the course of the lesson, one 
of the girls suddenly raised her hand and made the following observa 
tion, "Teacher, yesterday while taking a stroll we made up our minds 
to abide by the law and not to gossip. To our great consternation, we 
had nothing to talk about." Whereupon another girl, from the 

ij6 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

opposite corner of the room reiterated the same thought. "It is true," 
she said, a we could not make any conversation, we did not open our 
mouths." The children preferred for once not to talk, as a result of 
reading the wise words of our sages who regard the "evil tongue" 
as only less serious than bloodshed. 

Precepts like these and stories centering round such ideas as 
Abraham's hospitality and Moses's simplicity, give the child a positive 
image of human nature and enable him to find faith in himself. A 
positive version of the world was recently unfolded by a third-grader 
in the words which closely resemble ancient prophecy: "I dreamed 
that God created the world anew. He created one people and one 
language. The word, 'death/ was not known and the dead came to 
life again." 

The Haggadic literature which I have been trying to integrate 
into Bible teaching, opens a gateway to a storehouse of untold 
pleasures to our pupils. At the same time, I do not lose sight of the 
prime importance of teaching the great moral foundation upon which 
American life has been founded. A perfect example of such an 
integrated lesson the teaching of a democratic philosophy is 
afforded by the Rabbinic speculation about Jeremiah's ancestry. The 
theory that Jeremiah was descended from Rahab may strike most 
readers as merely a simple Rabbinic whimsy. But as a teacher, I try 
to emulate the Rabbis who insist upon making it a lesson in democ 
racy. "Let the son (Jeremiah) of the reformed wanton, the Rabbis 
teach, come and reprove the wanton son (ije. 9 the prophet's contem 
poraries) of the paragon (meaning Israel's forebears)." 

In the mere existence of such variety of educational institutions, 
there lies the strength and glory of American life. The freedom to 
express oneself freely and to preserve one's cultural heritage will bring 
out the best that is in all peoples in America, and will mold a form 
of life whose unity will grow out of its diversity. 


I was born on February i, 1882, in Augusta, Georgia, a city whose 
founding dates back to pre-Revolutionary days. It is such an inter 
esting city, and had such a decided influence on my early life, that I 
must take the time at the outset to say a few things about it. 

It is thoroughly steeped in Colonial and Revolutionary traditions. 
There is a monument on one of the principal thoroughfares of the 
city to George Walton, a resident of Augusta, who was a signer of 
the Declaration of Independence. Like Charleston, South Carolina, 
Savannah, Georgia, and Macon, Georgia, Augusta was a cultural 
center during the period immediately before and after the Civil 
War. Two or three poets were residents there, the most noted of 
whom was James Rider Randall, the author of "Maryland, My 
Maryland." The nationally known poet, Sidney Lanier, who wrote 
such popular poems as "A Ballad of Trees and the Master" and "The 
Marshes of Glynn," lived nearby in Bibb County. 

It was inevitable that in such an atmosphere as this there would be 
a cultural spillover into the Negro community. Two Negro writers, 
Silas X. Floyd and Wilson Jefferson, wrote poetry that was con 
sidered of a fairly high order. I recall a couplet written by Wilson 
Jefferson, who was the son of a cobbler, and was often taunted by the 
men who worked in his father's shop for being a dreamer. He coun 
tered by writing these lines: 

Pity him not who in the world sense fails, 
Whose task truth-seeking, trails 

ij8 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

A light afar; 

But rather pity him who still assails 

Pregnable heights. 

And never sees a star. 1 

I am sure you will agree that this is real poetry. 

Augusta was one of those cities in the deep South that established 
a public school system for Negroes as well as whites immediately 
after the Civil War. Of course the double standard existed then as 
it does today, under which there is a disproportionate expenditure of 
public money for the education of white children as over against 
the amount spent for colored children, but, in spite of the disad 
vantage of such disparities, the public school officials were conscien 
tious in bringing in as teachers the best trained Negroes who could 
be secured at that time. The chief training center for Negroes for 
the entire state was Atlanta University, an institution that was 
founded by Northern philanthropists immediately after the Civil 
War. In the nature of the case the training for Negroes in the early 
days did not go beyond the elementary grades. After sufficient stu 
dents had passed through these grades, a high school was set up 
that was presided over by Richard R. Wright, a graduate of Atlanta 
University, who afterward became president of Georgia State College 
for Negroes, and in later years moved to Philadelphia where he 
entered the business field as a banker, and served in that capacity 
until his death at ninety-two years of age. He had the distinction of 
operating his bank through the trying depression years without loss 
of funds or prestige. When he passed away in 1948, the President of 
the United States took notice of the contribution that he had made 
in education and business. 

Distinguished contemporaries of Dr. Wright in these early years 
in Augusta included Judson W, Lyons, who first was a teacher and 
afterward a highly controversial political figure. He was appointed 
postmaster of Augusta by President William McKinley, but the 
reaction of the Augusta public was so hostile that the appointment 
was revoked, and he was made register of the Treasury of the United 
States. Charles T. Walker, a famous Baptist minister of worldwide 

1 Wilson Jefferson, Poems, Richard G. Badger, Boston, 1910. 

Charming H. Tobias 179 

reputation who was popularly known as the Black Spurgeon, was as 
acceptable in the pulpits of London and New York as in his native 
Augusta. John Hope, afterward president o Morehouse College and 
Atlanta University, was born and received his early training in 
Augusta. While Augusta was in the pathway of Sherman's march to 
the sea, and has never forgotten that devastating destruction of 
property and life, it has risen above most communities in the State 
of Georgia in the pattern of race relationships that has been developed 
there through the years. There prevails what is commonly known as 
good relationship between the races, but of course all within the 
framework of segregation, to which Negroes rightly object. Perhaps 
the absence of the kind of prejudice that is found in many other 
parts of the State is due to the cultural background I have described, 
and to the fact that, for over one hundred years, there has been a 
daily newspaper published in the city, the oldest newspaper in the 
South, the Augusta Chronicle, which has kept the public informed 
of what has been happening beyond the borders of the community, 
thereby making it a less provincial community, which always means 
a less prejudiced community. The fact that I was born and grew up 
in such a city, accounts in part for the lack of bitterness with which 
I have been able to approach consideration of racial relationships in 
the South. 

In spite of the fact that colored children were given in the public 
schools the kind of elementary training that I have described, there 
was a set pattern of employment for the Negro part of the population. 
The men were permitted to become artisans, working as bricklayers, 
carpenters, shoemakers, etc., etc. The women were, for the most 
part, employed as domestic servants in white families. My mother, 
although fairly well trained, was a domestic servant. My father, who 
was even better trained, having spent a short while at Atlanta Uni 
versity, could find no higher occupation than that of coachman 
forerunner of the modern chauffeur. Both were loyal members of 
the Colored Methodist Church, but neither was what might be 
called devoutly religious, in the sense of regular attendance upon all 
the services of the Church. My sister, three years older than myself, 
was the only other child. Neither of us lived with our parents, because 

180 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

they both worked out and were not able to give us their personal 
care. My sister lived with her paternal grandmother, a woman of 
unusual intelligence, beauty, and personal charm, who was fairly 
well provided for economically through inheritance. I lived with a 
widowed friend of my mother, who was illiterate but highly in 
telligent. This foster mother, though never a member of any church, 
nevertheless saw to it that I attended Sunday school and church 
services regularly. 

It was at one of these church services, when I was about ten 
years of age, that I heard a man preach who was destined to exert 
a great influence on my life. He was a white man from South 
Carolina who had come to Augusta to establish a private church 
school for the training of Negro youth. No single word of his 
sermon remains with me, but the image of the man is as clear as if 
I were looking at him now his alert, soldierly bearing, his sparkling 
blue eyes, his well trimmed Van Dyke beard, and the kindly tone 
of his voice as he placed his hand on my head after the service when 
he was greeting the departing congregation at the door and said: 
"My little man, you were very attentive today. One of these days, 
when you have finished public school, I want you to come to my 
school." I never forgot that invitation. When I finished grade school 
I had the choice of three high schools, including the school of this 
white friend, Dr. George Williams Walker, and I insisted on going 
to his school, Paine Institute, as it was known then, although it was 
the poorest equipped of the three. It was literally true that the 
buildings consisted of converted stables, and a president's home that 
was partly used as a girls' dormitory. In my student days the story 
was told of a visit to the school by the noted evangelist, Sam Jones. 
In taking Mr. Jones through the buildings, President Walker entered 
a room containing a few shelves of well worn volumes, and said: 
"Mr. Jones, this is the beginning of our library." "Pardon me, 
Professor," said Mr. Jones, "but it looks like the end of it." Of 
necessity in those early years the Institute was one run by white 
people for colored people. The main teaching responsibilities were 
carried by President Walker, Professor Robert L. Campbell, both 
of whom were Confederate veterans, and Mrs. M. Z. Hankinson, a 

Channing H. Tobias 181 

woman of fine cultural background who, like Dr. Walker, had felt 
the call to give her life to this type of educational service. 

The time soon arrived, however, when the cooperative principle 
found expression. One of the first students of the school was a country 
boy named John Wesley Gilbert. His mental alertness at once con 
vinced President Walker that he should be encouraged to go to 
college. Accordingly, his regular school work was supplemented by 
special college preparatory study under the direction of President 
Walker, himself. In due time young Gilbert entered Brown Uni 
versity, from which he was graduated with honor, and pursued post 
graduate studies in the classics at the American University at Athens, 
Greece, which led to the granting of the Master's degree by Brown 
University. On his return to America he had many attractive offers 
*to teach, but chose to return to Paine, and became the first Negro to 
be associated with Southern white people in the education of Negroes. 
From that day until this, Paine College, as it is now known, has been 
a place where highly trained white and colored people join hands 
and work side by side in the training of Negro youth. I, myself, 
joined that faculty after receiving my A.B. degree at Paine College 
and my Bachelor of Divinity degree at Drew Theological Seminary, 
Madison, New Jersey. The first six years of my working career were 
spent at Paine College, The old teaching staff of four has grown 
into a first class faculty, and the instruction given is officially recog 
nized as Grade A by the Association of Southern Colleges. Thus you 
can readily realize the effect upon me of my close contact with the 
type of Southern white people whom I have described, a contact 
which is unbroken at the present time, because I am now serving as 
Vice President of the Board of Trustees of Paine College alongside 
of the President of the Board, Bishop Arthur J. Moore, a Southern 
white man who presides over the Methodists of Georgia. 

I can never utter wholesale condemnations of Southern white 
people, in spite of the fact that everything within me revolts against 
the Southern pattern of double standards as affecting white and 
Negro citizens. And the reason I take this position is inherent in 
such experiences as I have described. Even though it meant defiance 
of the customs and traditions of his own people, George Williams 

i<2 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

Walker believed in a single standard of citizenship and in the 
sacredness of all personality, white and black. The fact that I knew 
him and worked by his side, and have known hundreds of others 
like him since, imposes an obligation upon me to consider questions 
involving race relationships on their merits, rather than in terms of 
the geographical backgrounds of the persons concerned. 

Perhaps this is as good a point as any to state my position on race 
relationships in America. But before I do so I want to make it clear 
that the extent to which I insist upon no deviation from a single 
standard of citizenship, is due as much to the example and teaching 
of this Southern white man, who was my college president, as to 
any influence which has been exerted upon me in later years. I think 
it is important to repeat this, because so often today the enemies of 
civil rights in the South attribute any opposition to the traditional 
Southern point of view on the part of a Negro to the fact that he 
has been influenced by exposure to the North. 

My position on race relationships can be briefly stated, for it in 
volves mainly one practice, namely, segregation. / am unalterably 
opposed to segregation based on race, creed, or color, and -for the 
j olio wing reasons: 

First, it cheapens human personality and leads to crime against 
the group affected by it. To illustrate: when a lynching occurs, most 
people hasten to condemn the lawless element responsible for the 
actual perpetration of the crime, when, as a matter of fact, the real 
responsibility rests with the respectable citizens of the community 
who, through custom or law, impose a double standard of citizenship 
upon the community. I maintain that every law on the statute books 
and every well established custom of a local community or state that 
assigns a group, because of racial, religious, or color considerations, 
to live in a segregated part of the community, contributes to the 
cheapening of the personality of that group. Therefore, when an 
inhabitant of such a community is made a victim of mob violence, 
those who are responsible for the making of the laws and customs 
that have cheapened the personality of the victim must share the guilt. 

Second, segregation is unAmerican in spirit and practice. American 
citizens are supposed to enjoy freely all public privileges without 

Channing H. Tobias /<Sj 

discrimination as to race, creed, or color. When certain groups of 
citizens, because of economic power or superiority in numbers, 
arrogate to themselves the right to circumscribe life, liberty, and 
happiness for minorities, they have violated the most sacred of 
American principles. 

Third, and most important of all, I object to racial segregation, 
because it is an insult to the Creator. The individual or group who 
segregates is put in the ridiculous light of questioning the wisdom 
of Almighty God in creating people physically different from them 
selves. Racial segregation is indefensible on religious grounds, be 
cause it is based on something that the individual is powerless to 
remove. If a man is discriminated against because he is unclean, he 
can bathe and overcome the handicap. If the discrimination is be 
cause of ignorance, he can study and learn and meet the conditions. 
But i he is discriminated against because he is black, or brown, or 
white, the discrimination is based on something that he cannot 
remove, and would not if he could, and is therefore a sin, not just 
against the man himself, but against the God Who made him as he 

One would think, from all the noise and furor coming up out of 
the South following the Report of the President's Committee on 
Civil Rights and the issuance of the President's Message on the same 
subject, that life itself depended upon the segregation of the races. 
Mr. Truman has been accused of blasting at the white supremacy 
rock of ages, simply because he has insisted that it is not necessary to 
do violence to the personality of one racial group in order to uphold 
the dignity of the other. There are thousands of white people in the 
South who agree with the President but who are not disposed to 
argue the case once politicians have raised the cry of Negro domina 
tion. But there is an ever increasing number of Southern people who 
are growing weary of the wolf calls of the politicians and are be 
coming articulate in the interest of a single standard of citizenship. I 
quote directly from a deliverance by a group of white church women 
assembled in 1948 at Orlando, Florida: 

We recommend that women of the Methodist Church seek to remove 
every barrier that separates members of the family of God in the Church, 

184 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

and to build a Christian fellowship where ideas, experiences, facilities and 
action programs may be shared with freedom on a basis of full participa 


That part of my life that has been devoted to better understanding 
and cooperation between the races has been based upon the principles 
that I have just enunciated. With reference to these principles, there 
are four principal classes of Negroes. I wish to name them and in 
so doing point out the group with which I claim to be identified. 

First, there is the Negro who considers every problem from the 
viewpoint of his own personal advantage. He is willing to lie about 
conditions and what is in his own heart. He is willing to bend and 
bow obsequiously before white people who demand subservience, if 
by so doing he can get what he, personally, wants from these white 
people. Such a character is viciously selfish and dangerous. 

Second, there is the Negro who is not vicious and not particularly 
selfish, but who is weary of the struggle, and is willing to agree upon 
any course that will permit him to pass his days without coming 
into open conflict with other people. He is popularly known as the 
Uncle Tom type. As I have said, he is not vicious. He is simply tired 
and I might add, is becoming more and more out of date. 

Third, there is the ultra-radical type of Negro who believes in 
agitation for the sake of agitation, and is not eager to find a solution 
of the problems of which he complains, because then he would be 
deprived of the one occupation for which he exists, namely, disagree 
ment for the sake of disagreement. Fortunately, his number is too 
small to merit serious consideration. 

Fourth, there is the Negro with whom I count it a privilege to be 
identified, namely, the Negro who will not bow or bend obsequiously 
before other people in order to gain something for himself, who will 
not lie about conditions, or about what is in his own heart, who is 
willing to cooperate, but only on terms of mutual respect. This is the 
group with which all who are interested in true democracy for 
America will have to deal. 

It is because of my strong conviction that it is possible within 

2 1948 Report of the Southeastern Jurisdiction of Women's Society of Christian 
Service, Methodist Church. 

Channing H. Tobias 185 

the lifetime of the present generation to see true democracy in the 
ascendency in America, that I have identified myself with many 
movements that are working to that end. I think of such movements 
as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 
the National Urban League, the American Council on Race Relations, 
the National Committee on Segregation in the Nation's Capital, the 
philanthropic boards, such as the Phelps-Stokes Fund (of which I 
have the honor to be Director), the Marshall Field Foundation, 
the Jesse Smith Noyes Foundation, the Southern Regional Council, 
the National Council of the Churches of Christ in America, the 
Young Men's and Young Women's Christian Associations, and many 
other organizations that in one way or another seek to bring about 
the realization of a single standard of citizenship in American life. 
I think I should take the time also to mention the names of 
some persons who have been an inspiration and a help to me, as I 
have tried to work cooperatively and constructively at this task of 
human relationships. Among them are Robert R. Moton, who 
exhibited patience and fortitude under trying circumstances but never 
sacrificed the vital principles for which he stood; John R. Mott, world 
citizen and advocate of Christian democracy for all peoples; William 
A. Hunton and Jesse E. Moorland, pioneers in the extension of 
Y.M.CA. work to colored men and boys, who enlisted me in the 
service of that organization; William Jay Schieffelin, quiet but never 
theless forceful advocate of human brotherhood; Anson Phelps 
Stokes, pioneer in many ventures across racial lines that have brought 
mutual understanding and goodwill between white and Negro 
people; Edwin R. Embree, interpreter of the art contributions and 
possibilities of Negroes through his work and writings; Will W. 
Alexander, Southern pioneer in movements for equal opportunities 
for white and black people in the South; Mary McLeod Bethune, one 
of the great women of the world, whether judged by the depths from 
which she came, or the most modern standards of educational and 
social leadership; Wendell L. Willkie, whose strength of personality 
and political honesty made a great impression upon me as we worked 
intimately together on certain social and political problems; Charles 
E. Wilson, outstanding executive of the General Electric Company, 

i86 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

who presided sympathetically and impartially over the sessions of 
the President's Committee on Civil Rights; Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, 
preacher of righteousness and brotherhood; and James Weldon 
Johnson, whose poetry in this field of human relationships will live 
forever. Who can ever forget his challenge to the South epitomized 
in the following verse: 

How would you have us? As we are? 

Or sinking 'neath the load we bear? 

Our eyes fixed forward on a star? 

Or gazing empty at despair? 

Rising or falling? 

Men or things? 

With dragging pace or footsteps fleet? 

Strong, willing sinews in your wings? 

Or dragging chains about your feet? 3 

There are three other persons with whom I have been associated 
in connection with questions of civil rights and race relationships 
about whom I desire to write at greater length: 

First, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Sr. One incident will suffice to 
indicate the working of his mind on the problem of Negro-white 
relationships. It has reference to an order from the War Department 
for the establishment of redistribution centers for returning soldiers 
in the late months of World War II. One day a group of about ten 
Negro leaders was called to Governors Island for a conference with 
General Terry, then in command of the Second Army, for the pur 
pose of sharing with this group the plans of the War Department. I 
was a member of the group. Soon after we sat down in the general 
conference room, the General imparted to us the information that 
the Pershing Hotel for colored people on the South Side of Chicago 
had been taken over by the War Department as a redistribution 
center for Negroes, and that the Theresa Hotel in New York City 
would soon be taken over for a similar use. One after another of the 
Negro leaders gathered around the General's table told him that 

3 James Weldon Johnson, Fifty Years and Other Poems, Cornhill Company, Boston, 
1917, 1921. 

Channing H. Tobias iSj 

they were not interested in cooperating with him in carrying out the 
order to take over the Theresa Hotel, because they did not agree with 
the plan and would do everything possible to have the order of the 
War Department revoked. The General thanked us for our frank 
ness, and the conference ended rather abruptly. Later in the day the 
group instructed Walter White, the Executive Secretary of the 
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, to 
write to President Roosevelt, protesting against the discriminatory 
order of the War Department. About a week later President Roose 
velt summoned Walter White, Mary McLeod Bethune, and myself 
to the White House to discuss the protest of our group. At the time 
of the conference the President had with him his Special Assistant, 
Jonathan Daniels. (Following a brief discussion of our complaint, 
the President said that he regarded the order as a stupid one to start 
with and had conveyed his personal reaction to the Department 
through Mr. Daniels.) Then the President asked Mr. Daniels to 
state that a new order had been issued and to read that order for the 
benefit of the group. The substance of the new order was that the 
Pershing Hotel on the South Side of Chicago would be returned to 
its owners, the Theresa Hotel would not be taken over, and colored 
soldiers would go, with the exception of the deep South, into the 
regular redistribution centers for United States soldiers. 

Second, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. I mention him especially be 
cause of the contribution that he made as a member of the President's 
Committee on Civil Rights in connection with a discussion of 
discrimination in the armed forces. Before referring directly to young 
Roosevelt's statement on the subject, I want to say concerning him 
that for the ten months that he and I worked side by side on the 
President's Committee I never heard him sound a false note or avoid 
a ticklish issue. He was always the forthright and unequivocal 
advocate of a single standard of citizenship for all Americans regard 
less of race, creed, or color. On the occasion to which I have referred, 
a member of the Committee had said that he thought the question of 
segregation in wartime should be left entirely to the Commander-in- 
Chief. To this Mr. Roosevelt replied in the following words, as 
quoted from the record: 

i88 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

I think if we rely on the Commander-in-Cbiefs judgment, we are 
liable to fall into a pitfall, because ultimately, as Commander-in-Chief, 
he is going to rely on the opinion of his top military and naval com 
manders. I saw this first-hand during the war. The argument always 
was: "Well, let us do it slowly, let us work into it." We tried to do it 
slowly. In war you are teaching men how to operate too many gadgets 
to teach them how to overcome their prejudices. The result was that we 
did not get top Negroes in the right spots and I felt that the whole thing 
would have been an awful lot better if we had just completely eliminated 
segregation and separate units. Negroes have not gotten the rights for 
which they really thought they were fighting. If we had done away 
with the whole idea of segregation in the units, in the separate ships in 
the navy, we would have overcome this thing over night. 

Third, Harry S. Truman. All sorts o motives have been attributed 
to President Truman for appointing the Committee on Civil Rights. 
Many people have believed that it was an act that was politically 
inspired. I can state the facts because I was present at a meeting in his 
office when he decided to appoint the Committee. I had just returned 
from a trip to West Africa in late August of 1946, and had been 
asked by Walter White, in his capacity as Executive Secretary of the 
N A.A.C.P., to join a small group that would call upon the President 
to bring to his attention a wave of mob violence that had swept 
over the country, culminating in the lynching of four persons, two 
men and two women, in Walton County, Georgia. At the time 
appointed, September the ipth, the group went to see Mr. Truman. 
There were six of us: Walter White; Leslie Perry, Secretary of the 
NA.A.C.P. Branch in the District of Columbia; Dr. Frederick E. 
Reissig, representative of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ 
in America; Boris Shishkin, economist of the American Federation 
of Labor; James B. Carey, Secretary-Treasurer of the C.I.O.; and 
myself. Mr. White recited what had happened in Georgia, to which 
the President replied, "It's a terrible thing, but I doubt if the 
people realize how helpless the Federal Government is in protecting 
its citizens in their rights." In reply to this Mr. White said, "If that 
is true, Mr. President, it would seem to me that we should try to 
find some way of determining how the Federal Government can 

Channing H* Tobias iS$ 

protect the rights of its citizens." I said to the President, "Mr. 
President, it is less now a question of what can be done to relieve the 
situation in which Negroes of this country find themselves, than it 
is of what must be done to safeguard American prestige among the 
nations of the world. I was in London at the time of the Walton 
County lynching and read the account in the London papers, and 
it did not make good reading for an American abroad." The Presi 
dent replied, "I know it." Then he turned to David K. Miles, his 
Special Assistant, who was seated behind him, and said, "Dave, 
there must be some way in which a great country like ours can 
protect its citizens, and I want you to get in touch with Attorney 
General Tom Clark immediately and ask him to arrange to make a 
study of the whole question of civil rights." That was, as I have 
stated, in September, and in December following the President's 
Committee on Civil Rights was appointed. As is well known, the 
Committee consisted of fifteen persons, forming a cross-section of 
American life as to race, sections of the country, religious groups, 
and labor and management. It was my privilege to serve on that 
Committee. I recall the day when, after ten months of work, the 
finished Report was presented to the President. Mr. Charles E. 
Wilson, Chairman of the Committee, in a few choice words presented 
to the President the special volume that had been signed by the 
members of the Committee. The President took the volume, fingered 
the leaves for a moment, and then said, "I have stolen a march on you. 
I have already read the Report, and I want you to know that you have 
done not only what I consider to be a corking good job, but you have 
done just what I wanted you to do." I think it is to the everlasting 
credit of President Truman that in spite of storms of protest that have 
broken about his head since the Report was released, he has held his 

Most of what I have recorded up to this point has dealt with my 
interest in human relationships. I come now to my interest in 
religion. The early religious influences that affected my life have 
already been described. What I say here will bear upon the religious 
thought and experiences of my maturer years. I have stated that I 
was reared in the Colored Methodist Church. Two Bishops of that 

igo Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

Church, Lucius H. Holsey and Robert S. Williams, were my spiritual 
advisers at the time that I decided to study theology. They were self- 
made men of strong personality and deep religious experience. Their 
theology was conservative and would be considered today as out of 
harmony with progressive trends in religious thought. But I feel a 
deep sense of obligation to them in spite of this fact, for they were 
sincere, and according to their light rendered highly significant 
service to the Kingdom of God as they conceived it. These men have 
long since passed on, but their mantles have fallen upon other 
Bishops with whom I have maintained contacts and from whom I 
have received inspiration, namely, Charles H. Phillips of Ohio, 
Randall A. Carter of Illinois, J. Arthur Hamlett of Missouri, and 
William Y. Bell of Georgia. 

The Drew Theological Seminary of Madison, New Jersey, where 
I received my theological training, had as its President when I entered 
in 1902 Dr. Henry Anson Buttz, a distinguished Greek scholar. He 
made a deep impression upon me, not so much on account of his 
scholarship, as because of the kindly spirit that he manifested in 
personal interviews with entering students. He realized that my 
residence up to the time of my entering Drew had been in the South 
exclusively, and he knew from long experience the difficulties facing 
students who had to adjust .themselves to a new environment. The 
kindly manner in which he talked with me about my personal 
problems gave him a place in my heart which he will always occupy. 
Other members of the faculty who exerted a great influence upon me 
included Robert W. Rogers, Assyrian and Babylonian scholar under 
whom I studied Hebrew for the three years of my stay at the 
Seminary, and Alfred Faulkner, distinguished church historian. 

It might seem that one whose early religious training was received 
in a Methodist Church and a Methodist school would embrace a 
theology narrowly sectarian. Such has not been the case with me. I 
believe firmly in the character and teachings of the Founder of 
Christianity. But I have always reserved the right to make my own 
interpretations of the Christian Scriptures, and my own appraisal of 
the teachers of religion with whom I have come into contact. I think it 
is important to be loyal to the great principles of religion, regardless of 

Channing H* Tobias igi 

whether they are enunciated by leaders of one's own faith or of some 
other faith. It happened that two great characters outside of the 
Christian faith greatly influenced my religious beliefs. They were 
Julius Rosenwald and Mahatma Gandhi. 

I first came into contact with Julius Rosenwald soon after he had 
visited Tuskegee Institute for the first time, and had made a 
remarkable philanthropic offer after walking with his friend, Booker 
T. Washington, along the country roads of Macon County, Alabama. 
The substance of his offer as expressed to Mr. Washington was this : 
"Seeing how terribly inadequate these country school houses for 
Negro children are, I will give a third of the money, if you will 
get a third from the Board of Education, and a third from the people 
of the community, white and colored, to erect a decent school build 
ing for colored children in each community throughout this 
County." Mr. Washington accepted the challenge, and succeeded in 
meeting the conditions of the offer for the County. Mr. Rosenwald 
then extended the offer to include any county in the South that 
would meet the same conditions. Before the building campaign 
closed a few years later, five thousand modern school houses had been 
erected for Negro school children in the South. 

Simultaneously with this campaign, Mr. Rosenwald did another 
magnanimous thing. Impressed by the efforts of colored people in 
Chicago to raise money for a Young Men's Christian Association 
building, he made a personal contribution of $25,000 for the erection 
of a Branch of the YMCA in the Negro community of Chicago's 
South Side, and followed this with an offer to contribute $25,000 
to any city in the United States that would raise a total of not less 
than $100,000 for the erection of a Young Men's Christian Association 
building to serve primarily the needs of colored men and boys. 
Twenty-seven cities of the country qualified for this offer and in 
each instance he contributed $25,000. It was in connection with 
working out the terms of this offer that I met Mr. Rosenwald. The 
meeting took place in his private office at the Sears Roebuck plant 
in Chicago. As I sat at his desk and talked with him, I noticed that 
on the wall directly in front of his desk was a splendid painting of 
Booker T. Washington. The fact that this man of great wealth, a 

/p2 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

member of another race, and a communicant of another faith, could 
find his daily inspiration through looking into the face of a dis 
tinguished Negro educator, made such an impression upon me that 
it led me to reexamine my Christian faith. I said to myself: "Why 
should I assume that I have more in common with the white Baptist 
or Methodist preacher in Macon County, Alabama, simply because 
we both call ourselves Christians, than with this man, a Jew, who 
has in his spirit, and in his acts, more thoroughly demonstrated 
the teachings of the Founder of Christianity than those who call 
themselves Christian leaders?" For decades these Christian ministers 
had passed by the shacks in which these Negro children of Alabama 
attended school, and never once had it occurred to them that the 
inequalities that existed in the facilities for the training of white and 
Negro children should have been removed; while one look at the 
situation by Julius Rosenwald, the Jew, was sufficient to move him 
to action. From that day until now I have determined to be loyal to 
the expression of the heart of the Founder of Christianity, whether 
such expression emanates from a Christian, a Jew, a Mohammedan, a 
Hindu, or one of any other faith. For thirty-five years I was an 
-employed officer of the Young Men's Christian Association, and 
throughout that period of service worked to carry out the splendid 
program of that organization. But I can never forget that it was a 
Jew who dramatized the needs of colored youth for a Christian 
movement that up to that time had shown no marked enthusiasm 
for bringing this youth into fellowship with the youth of other races, 
or making adequate provision for service to them in Branches set 
apart for them. Therefore, I am not disposed to question the validity 
of the faith of any man who lives and acts in accordance with the 
spirit and content of the Golden Rule, simply because he is identified 
with a faith other than my own. 

Now as to the effect of Mahatma Gandhi upon my religious 
thinking. Thirteen years ago I attended a conference of the World's 
Committeerof Young Men's Christian Associations at Mysore, India. 
On the way to India I visited Palestine. While I was deeply moved 
by many of the sights that had association with early church history, 

Channing H. Tobias 193 

I was disappointed in some things that I heard and saw. For instance, 
when I visited the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem, I learned of 
the bitter rivalries between the various Christian communions for 
places of priority in the Christmas Pilgrimage to the birthplace of 
Christ. When I went to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, my guide 
noticed that one of the lamps above the Tomb needed adjustment to 
its frame. He called to a passing attendant to ask that the adjustment 
be made. With a look of anger the attendant turned abruptly and 
went away. I asked what the trouble was. My guide replied that the 
lamp was an Armenian lamp and that the attendant whom he had 
asked to make the adjustment was a Greek, and that a Greek did 
not dare touch an Armenian lamp, even above the Holy Sepulcher. 
When I proceeded on to India and finally had the opportunity of 
meeting Mahatma Gandhi, I could not help but contrast my experi 
ences in Palestine with the experiences that I had in connection with 
my meeting with Gandhi. 

An Indian friend who was attending the conference at Mysore, and 
who was also a close friend of Gandhi had wired to Gandhi's home 
in Central India to see if I could have an interview with him. A wire 
came back saying that Gandhi had left home, was making a brief 
stop at Poona for the purpose of arbitrating a labor dispute, and 
would proceed after a day or two from Poona to Travancore, the 
southernmost state of India, going by way of Madras. My friend in 
Mysore then wired to Poona that I would meet Gandhi's train at 
Renigunta, a small town two and a half hours away from Madras, 
which was quite convenient for me since I was on my way to that 
city. On the day appointed I reached Renigunta two or three hours 
before the time for Gandhi's train to arrive. It was a Monday, and I 
knew that this was Gandhi's day of silence. I had no hope that I 
would have the opportunity of conversing with him, so I wrote out 
the questions that I wanted to ask him, a question to a sheet, with 
space beneath the question for him to write his answer if the oppor 
tunity presented itself. I was uncertain at Renigunta what class 
ticket I should buy, for there were three classes of accommodations 
on most trains. I took a chance at buying a second class ticket. I 

/p^ Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

should have known better, for when the train finally arrived I 
noticed the crowd rush to the third class coach. Then I knew that 
Gandhi was in that coach. 

Fortunately for me I had an a topi, or sun helmet, which proved 
to be the means of my identification, since the Indians either wear 
turbans or no head covering at all. As I elbowed my way through 
the crowd, I noticed a tall man open the side door of the car, look 
down upon the crowd, and then, recognizing me, beckon to me to 
get into the coach. As soon as I was safely through the door, he took 
the papers on which my questions were written and then said to 
me, "You will be glad to learn that Gandhigi is going to break 
silence at 4:30 so that he may talk with you personally about America 
and the problems of your people." This man was Mr. Desai, Gandhi's 
secretary. The first thing that impressed me as I was ushered through 
the door of a partition running through the middle of the coach to the 
other side where Gandhi was sitting, was the rugged simplicity of 
this third class car on which the greatest man of India, and one of 
the greatest men of all the world was riding. Although he remained 
in silence, he recognized my presence and bade me sit down in front 
of him while he continued to operate his little spinning wheel, and, 
as the train stopped at station after station, passed out fruit to those 
who were able to get close enough to reach through the window. 
The people, in turn, threw in bunches of yarn for his spinning 
wheel, garlands of flowers, and small contributions for his work 
among the Untouchables. All the while he spoke not a word, but with 
the Hindu greeting from time to time acknowledged the plaudits 
of the people. 

Finally, at the hour of 4:30, he arose, shook hands with me warmly, 
and asked me to sit down beside him. His first words were these: 
"You will be interested to learn that I have read everything that I 
could lay my hands on that was ever written by General Armstrong 
and Booker Washington.'* Then he proceeded to tell me how closely 
he watched the development of race relations in America. Finally, we 
began to talk of world conditions. There were two wars at that 
time: the Italian conquest of Ethiopia had just been concluded, and 
the Spanish war was still in progress. As we discussed war in 

Channing H. Tobias 195 

general, he said substantially this: "You people of the West have a 
war, and then you have a so-called peace conference following the 
war, which you might just as well have had before the war and 
possibly have prevented it. Then in the so-called peace conference you 
sow the seed for the next war, which means an unending cycle of 

One of my written questions was answered in a way and spirit 
that I have never forgotten. I quote: 

Question: Negroes in the United States (12,000,000) are struggling to 
obtain such fundamental rights as freedom from mob violence, unre 
stricted use of the ballot, freedom from segregation in all forms and an 
opportunity to find employment in skilled, as well as unskilled forms of 
labor. Have you out of your struggles in India a word of advice or en 
couragement? I ask this fully appreciating how differ endy situated the 
two peoples are. 

Gandhis reply: I had to contend against some such thing, though on 
a smaller scale, in South Africa. The difficulties are by no means yet 
over. All I can say is that there is no other way than the way of non 
violence not of the weak and the ignorant but of the strong and the wise. 

For an hour and a half we had communion together before the 
train arrived at Madras where Gandhi was greeted by approximately 
20,000 people in the public square. After acknowledging the demon 
stration, he was driven quietly away to the Temple to be in prayer 
for the three hours before the departure of his train for Travancore. 
Both through his word and his actions he had convinced me that he 
was the greatest spiritual leader of our time. While we were still in 
conversation I had said to him, "I have often wondered what it is 
that gives you your power. I know that you have no army, no navy, 
no wealth, but people all over the world, great and small, lend 
attentive ears to whatever you have to say." No teacher of my 
Christian faith ever made the impression upon me that this man 
made, because he was the living embodiment of what he taught. 

I have given this fairly lengthy account of my meeting with 
Gandhi for the purpose of suggesting how important it is that people 
of different faiths find common ground on which to stand as they 
seek the realization of truth. 

196 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

In this atomic era the only alternative to destruction is cooperation, 
and cooperation is not Something that can be worked out in science 
laboratories. It is definitely spiritual. Hence the importance of the 
interfaith religious approach to present day problems of human 
relationships at home and abroad. I stress interfaith because no one 
religion or denomination is adequate to express all the longings and 
desires in the hearts of men of many nations, races, and cultural 
backgrounds. I do not believe that it is necessary to bring about 
creedal, doctrinal, or organizational uniformity, in order that people 
of different faiths may cooperate in the interest of the realization of 
certain common spiritual objectives. Men always have and doubtless 
always will approach truth from different angles. Therefore, Luther 
ans will continue to be Lutherans; Baptists will continue to be 
Baptists; Catholics will continue to be Catholics; Jews will continue 
to be loyal to the Jewish faith; but at the same time it is possible for 
all to be striving to discover some means by which they may speak 
with one voice and move with united action for satisfying those deep 
yearnings of the human heart that are common to all nations, races, 
and tongues. 

It is in the interest of bringing about this kind of religious unity 
that I am devoting much of my time today. Therefore, I hope you 
will bear with me as I elaborate more fully upon what I believe to be 
involved in bringing to bear upon the present world situation the 
impact of the true essence of religious faith. I think I should say 
first of all that I believe that it is impossible for society to be redeemed 
from the selfishness, greed, and exploitation so prevalent in the 
world today, until those who constitute society are made free to 
participate in the redemptive processes. In no nation in the world 
does such freedom exist today. The totalitarian states, with all their 
boasting about social democracy, make voting by the masses a sham 
and a mockery, because the decisions that count are made by the 
rulers and handed down to the people, with conformity demanded 
sometimes at the peril of imprisonment or death. Even in a democ 
racy like the United States of America, freedom of expression at the 
ballot box and freedom of participation on terms of equality in 
government are denied to a large segment of the population on 

Channing H. Tobias 197 

account of race. Important decisions involving the social welfare 
of the people are often influenced by the use of money, or the threat 
of loss of employment. Colonial powers are still dragging their feet 
on extension of self-determination to the people of their colonies. 
The debate before the United Nations General Assembly on whether 
or not Southwest Africa should continue to be held in trust by the 
Union of South Africa, clearly indicated a determination on the part 
of the Union Government to insist upon the trusteeship on its own 
terms, regardless of the desires of the Africans, themselves, who 
constitute four-fifths of the population. The present demands of the 
Italian Government that its African colonies be returned to Italy for 
the economic advantages that it would derive from these colonies, 
with little thought being given to the welfare of the people, or to 
their desires with regard to Italian sovereignty over them, bear out 
my contention that there is need for emphasizing the right of all 
people to participate directly or indirectly in the making and execu 
tion of the laws by which they are governed. This is something so 
basically moral that people of all faiths and divisions of faith should 
unite to bring it to realization. 

The task of translating these principles into action is, as I intimated 
at the beginning, too great to be accomplished by the efforts of man 
alone. Science in and of itself is powerless to work out solutions for 
such intricate problems of human relationship. Some time ago I read 
a news story which stated that a distinguished Columbia University 
professor had discovered a shift on the part of present day students 
from science to the humanities. This is not strange in view of the 
inadequate answers of science to the perplexing problems confronting 
students today. After all, it is impossible for anyone to contrive a 
scientific bath in which one may dip and be washed of hatred and 
suspicion of his fellowmen. It is my belief that we cannot do other 
than seek the help and guidance of the supernatural as we deal with 
these problems that are too difficult for the mind of man to solve. 
This falling back upon the resources of the Infinite is a universal 
instinct. I am sure that you who have visited most of the countries 
of the world will bear witness to the truthfulness of this observation. 
I saw it at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. I experienced it in the 

198 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

hour with Gandhi that I have described. I saw it in a Congo mission 
service. I saw it in Roman and Greek Catholic cathedrals in Europe. 
I have seen it in Methodist camp meetings. I have seen its spon 
taneous expression, without the aid of church or cathedral atmos 
phere. It is as universal as the presence of man. And it is this fact 
that suggests the possibility of a worldwide interfaith movement for 
focusing attention upon the welfare of human beings, above con 
siderations of politics and economics. It would be a great thing for a 
bewildered and pessimistic world if the leaders of the great religions 
and denominations could sit around a common table Jews, Mo 
hammedans, Hindus, Buddhists, all divisions of Christians for the 
sole purpose of calling attention to the broad principles upon which 
it is possible to unite in the interest of bringing understanding and 
peace to mankind. The very fact of the meeting of such a group 
would be significant and impressive, to say nothing of the impact 
upon world thinking that could be brought to pass through such 
united suggestions as such a group would make. With a group of such 
wide differences of background and custom, any suggested program 
of action, as I have said before, would of necessity have to be very 
broad. Perhaps the suggestion that the hungry people of the earth 
be fed, and that this be done, not in a spirit of charity but of sharing, 
and not according to selective processes by which friends would be 
favored and enemies denied, might be the only program upon which 
there could be immediate united agreement. Perhaps our first reaction 
to such a proposal would be that it is too naive, too simple to be taken 
seriously. This may be true, but I would remind you that the same 
criticism was made of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God as preached 
by Jesus of Nazareth. And then there may be those who would 
shudder at the thought of cooperation with those outside the house 
hold of their own faith. I would remind such that on more than one 
occasion Jesus did exactly that and found great satisfaction in the 
experience. Then there may be those who feel that the difficulties 
in carrying out such a proposal are insurmountable. To this I would 
reply that all things are possible with God, and as the alternative to a 
peaceful world may be the destruction of civilization, it is worth 
trying. One thing is certain whether our united actions take this 

Charming H. Tobias 199 

form or some other, we must do something and we must do it 
without delay. This is no time to beat our denominational war 
drums in a crusade for church expansion that expresses itself merely 
in saving souls from heathenism. This is no time to proceed in the 
spirit of the crusaders of old who waged wars for the recovery of a 
holy vessel. This is no time to work for the revitalization of our 
denominational patriotism, simply to be able to compare notes 
favorably with other denominations. This is no time to put great 
emphasis on benevolence as such, remembering that the test of faith 
today is not so much in what the church and synagogue are willing 
to give, as in what they are willing to give up for the sake of right 
eousness. As I have said repeatedly, purely humanistic efforts to bring 
peace to the world have failed, and are destined to further failure. 
There is only one hope left, namely, an appeal to the hearts of men. 
This is the responsibility of the united religious forces of the world, 
and now is the time for these forces to spark the conscience of the 
human race into a chain of action that may lead men away from sus 
picion, distrust, and enmity to righteousness and peace. 

And now for a final word that I have reserved for this concluding 
paragraph. I mentioned at the beginning the persons who, in the 
plastic period of my life, helped to set the patterns of my thought, my 
ambitions, my aspirations. In this closing word I must acknowledge 
the debt that I owe to those who have been closest to me in the ma 
ture years of my life my wife and my two daughters. My wife, who 
passed on not many months ago, was in the truest sense of the word 
a sharer of rny struggles and a contributor to any worthwhile serv 
ices I may have rendered. My elder daughter, who was educated at 
Barnard and Wellesley Colleges, passed on at an early age, but not 
before she had given four years of her life to building up the biology 
department of a Southern college. My younger daughter, product 
of New York University and Columbia University Graduate School, 
now the mother of two precocious youngsters, and pursuing a business 
career in a field open to few of her race, is a constant source of en 
couragement and inspiration to me. Without these three there would 
have been no life story worth recording. 


I am not a self-made man. The self-made man often worships his 
maker. I realize only too well how little I owe to myself. Yet, in the 
retrospect of nearly two-thirds of a century, I see, and those who 
know me must see even more clearly, how far I am from attaining 
the standards and the ideals of which I speak and which fifty years 
ago seemed so close to me. The litde that I may have achieved is 
heavily indebted to forces around me home, family, friends, and 
a serene background now almost unknown. 

I was born into an English Jewish family that lived its life in a 
largely Jewish milieu. This basic fact made it easy for me to grow 
up as a Jew. Ancestral influences helped set the compass of my pil 
grimage along paths held in honor in the family tradition. Pictures 
of rabbinic ancestors hung on the walls of the London home where 
I was born and where I lived through my childhood and youth. One 
of these was a picture of a great-great-grandfather, Raphael Meldola, 
a scion of many generations of Italian rabbis, who was chief rabbi of 
the Sephardim in England. A great-grandfather on the de Sola side, 
a family which traces its family tree back to the ninth century in 
Spain, was D. A. de Sola, known in his time as "the learned hazan" 
of the London Sephardic community. Many of the Hebrew prayer- 
books and other books of Hebrew learning which he published were 
in current use in my home. In the generation of my grandfathers, two 
other members of the family, Abraham de Sola of Montreal and 
Samuel de Sola of London, served in the Jewish ministry. In the 


202 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

generation of my father, three members of the family, H. Pereira 
Mendes and Frederick de Sola Mendes of New York, and Meldola 
de Sola of Montreal, were notable religious leaders. The rabbinic 
tradition was a part of the home atmosphere. 

There was also in the family a tradition of physicians that went 
back some centuries, and we had among us a number of moderately 
successful business men. Therefore, had precedent from earlier gen 
erations or environment been the determining factor in my choice 
of a life's work, I might equally well have yielded to the prospect of 
greater financial rewards by following my paternal grandfather who 
was a flourishing importer of cattle, or my maternal grandfather who 
had been a pioneer in the manufacture of sewing machines. But from 
an early age I had looked forward to becoming a rabbi or a physician, 
with a preference for the rabbinate. 

The environment in which I lived was quiet and simple. Though 
I grew up in London, the world's greatest metropolis and the heart 
of the world's greatest empire, life as I recall it was not speeded up to 
the intensity that we know today, be it in New York, London, or Tel- 
Aviv. I recall the birth of the automobile, the bicycle with pneumatic 
tires, and the moving picture. My evenings were illumined by gas 
lights. We had yet to see the first radio or airplane. I moved through 
early childhood at the leisurely pace of the horse drawn omnibus, or 
at what was looked on by my parental generation as the daring, 
breathtaking speed of the safety bicycle. Even politics was mild and 
urbane. The most radical kind of decision that I was called upon to 
make was to be "either a little liberal or else a little conservative." 
No anti-semitism, no migration, no undue struggle, no harsh change 
of fortune, no world war, marred the even tenor of the home in 
which I grew up. Unlike the children of the world of today, heirs 
of two world wars, I knew of death only as something that naturally 
befell old people. 

School was of the typical late Victorian style, both good and bad 
for scholastic education. It meant much in companionship and sport, 
including the ancient sport of scrambling for prizes; but it was al 
most as remote as medieval Scholasticism from the psychologically 
child-centered school that we know today. Almost exclusively it 

David de Sola Pool 203 

stressed factual knowledge. The memorizing of remote names and 
dates of the English kings and queens including all the wives of 
Henry VIII, and the correct use of the subjunctive in French and in 
Latin, stood out among the most important knowledge that had to 
be acquired. My teachers were often uninspired educational hacks. 
But I gratefully recall J. L. Paton, then the headmaster of University 
College School in London, who had vision and personality. He helped 
me gain a broader outlook. 

My synagogue meant much to me from my earliest days. Because 
our group lived some three miles from the historic Sephardic syna 
gogue in Bevis Marks, we developed a neighborhood "esnoga" of 
our own. This was a small brick building in a back yard in Mildmay 
Park in North London. It had hard wooden benches and a seating 
capacity of about 120. The congregation of that little synagogue was 
bound together by a warm feeling of family intimacy and personal 
participation in its services. Every one of us counted, even the little 
boys, for they formed the remarkably effective choir. We boys were 
actively and happily at home in it. There I learned to know the tradi 
tional ritual of Jewish worship, and Hebrew Psalms and the hymns 
of the millennial prayerbook became familiar on my tongue long 
before I knew their meaning, for our Hebrew prayerbooks usually 
had no English translation. The teachings of Moses and other biblical 
passages became known to me through their repeated readings at 
the Sabbath services. Not a few of us boys if called upon could readily 
have conducted some of the Hebrew services. Indeed, some of us were 
often called on to lead in reading parts of the Sabbath morning serv 
ice. Though we had a regular reader for the services, we had no rabbi 
or preacher. I recall but two sermons being delivered in that building 
in the first two decades of my life. I owe much of the foundations 
and the pattern of my religious life to that little synagogue where the 
congregation generated its own religious feeling and expression in 
happy intimacy and unquestioning loyalty. 

My deeply rooted attachment to Judaism owed something also 
to negative forces from the outside. Thus, one of my neighbors, a 
middle-aged woman as I remember her, was annoyed at something 
done by a group of us boys. While upbraiding us, at one moment she 

204 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

turned from the Christian boys, and with an ugly gesture said to me 
harsh and insulting words about Jews as moneychangers whom Jesus 
drove out of the Temple. Her contemptuous remark was a turning 
point in my Jewish development. I was about eight years old at the 
time. I did not then know, as this woman did not know, the necessary 
function of those who by changing money in the temple area served 
the needs of worshipers bringing their offerings. But my whole 
being rose up spiritually in defense of my people and their religious 
tradition which I knew she had slandered. In our synagogue our 
religious leader served through the whole year and conducted all the 
services virtually without pay. My father in his devotion to the syna 
gogue never received or looked for a penny for carrying out the multi 
farious dudes of honorary secretary of the congregation. The leader 
of our choir freely gave his constant service as a labor of love. We 
boys of the congregation attended choir rehearsals and sang regularly 
in the choir entirely for the love of it. There were no "money 
changers" in our synagogue, no trafficking, no selling of honors, no 
seeking of business advantage. Inarticulate as I was, deep in my soul 
I knew that I had nothing for which to apologize. I winced at that 
woman's words, for that was my first experience of "religious" illwill. 
But I left her presence a stronger, more consciously Jewish child. 

At the other extreme was another neighbor who spoke not in 
harsh tones of intemperate prejudice but with a gentle and affec 
tionate voice. One day, when I was a very young child, she appeal- 
ingly asked me if I would not like to be saved as one of the litde 
lambs of Christ. Her desire to share with me the spiritual gifts which 
her religion brought to her might have stirred a response had I been 
a homeless, hungry-hearted orphan. But my religious life was rich 
because of the happy and vivid Jewish character of my home. The 
word of God attached to its doorposts and the biblical fringes which 
I wore beneath my outer clothing so infused the word of God into 
my life, that I felt no call for the symbols of another religious tradi 
tion. The permeating Jewish discipline of the Levitical and rab 
binical dietary laws, the color, the poetry, and the glamor of the reli 
gious ceremonial in my home, and, most pervasive of all, the Sab 
bath's spiritual uplift and religious joy, left no room in my soul for 

David de Sola Pool 205 

the message of another faith. To me the Sabbath had nothing of 
austere Puritanical solemnity; it was a warm and vivid experience 
of family love in the home, as well as an active happy participation 
in the chanted prayers, colorful ceremonial, and religious teachings 
of the synagogue. My religion was felt and lived in the eagerly looked 
for observances of my daily life; it was not designed to lead me in 
flight from a sinful word to an apocalyptic new Jerusalem. 

The month of December brought rne an eagerly anticipated vaca 
tion from school; but I had no need of a Christmas tree and its 
candles, for my heart was aglow with the light from the Hanukkah 
candles which at that season every evening for eight days I kindled 
in rny home with blessing and song. The family ritual around the 
table on the Passover eve with its deliberate appeal to the interest 
and heart of the children, its striking exotic ceremonial, its playful 
words of profound instruction, its hymns, psalms, and happy songs, 
and its bitter herbs, wine, and unleavened bread left me with no 
longing for the hot cross buns which were featured in the windows 
of the bakers, or for the Easter eggs which were the joy of my friends 
among the Christian lads of my age. My own religious experience 
was happy, integrated, natural, and fulfilling, and the invitation 
from the sweet lady on the other side of the garden wall to join the 
happy Christian flock struck no responsive chord in me. 

Moreover, her missionizing invitation fell on uncomprehending 
ears, for religion as I knew it had an appeal that was different in char 
acter from that which I had heard addressed to my Christian neigh 
bors. It is true that I scarcely knew the inside of a church; but what 
I had gathered from the Salvation Army meetings held outside the 
drink purveying London public houses was a reiterated emphasis on 
sin that had little meaning for me. Except on the New Year and the 
Day of Atonement, my religion did not stress that I was the victim 
of sin. In my life, "hell" and "damnation" were words used by coarse 
persons who swore. The Jewish men and women whom I knew were 
not notably sinners, and I saw no reason for them to be "saved." 
They did not know what the inside of a "pub" looked like. They 
were sober, decent folk who loved us children, and who gave us 
a sweet and happy home life. They were kind folk who when we 

206 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

came to visit them welcomed us in their homes and gardens, and 
treated us to chocolates, or oranges, or what was then the English 
-child's delight, ginger beer. 

Yet, in various ways my consciousness was markedly influenced by 
the dominandy Protestant Christian civilization in which my child 
hood was spent. I was deeply stirred by such books as Ingraham's 
Prince of the House of David, or Dean Farrar's St. Winifreds and 
Eric. These books brought to me an uplift of soul that was lacking 
in the sea stories of Captain Marryat and the fighting stories of G. A. 
Henty which nourished my boyish spirit of adventure. At a boarding 
school which I attended for one year my principal teacher was a 
pious young Christian who used to tell me of his desire to become a 
missionary in Africa, and who later became a minister in the Church 
of England. Such literary and personal religious influences made a 
deep though undenominational imprint on my spirit. 

When the Sturm und Drang days of adolescence came, I moved on 
from the gallant stories of Henty and Marryat to Byron whose 
vigorous thrusts were applauded by my questioning soul. The rugged, 
fighting optimism of Robert Browning struck so responsive a chord 
that in my twenties I not infrequently lectured on his poetry at 
Browning societies. Ruskin's righteous indignations and enthusiasms 
were a revelation to me, and I read whatever I could lay my hands on 
of his writings. It was a meaningful day for me when I first came to 
know Emerson's essays; their sententious wisdom sank deep into my 
spirit. There was also at the time a young writer named H. G. Wells 
whose Anticipations, Mankind in the Making, A Modern Utopia, 
and other works envisioning new possibilities for human society, 
stirred my imagination with an optimism for mankind that two 
world wars have cataclysmically assaulted, but have not been able 
to overcome. 

Alongside of these more spiritual influences my high school 
adolescence came to recognize such immutable facts as that (x+y) 2 
always equals x 2 4~2xy-|-y 2 , that in dynamics action and reaction are 
always equal and opposite, or that the action of sulphuric acid on 
chalk always produces calcium sulphate, water, and carbon dioxide. 
The unfailing constancy of such natural phenomena and the ability 

David de Sola Pool 207 

to reduce them to absolute mathematical formulas, brought me face 
to face with universal law. As my studies progressed and broadened, 
ever newly revealed marvels of nature held me in thrall. Underlying 
them all I felt the presence of an all-pervading unity. The more I 
delved into the physical phenomena of life, the more these spoke to 
me of a unifying, universal God. This upward look through nature 
to nature's God has never failed me. It kept me from yielding to the 
lure of rationalism, humanism, materialism, and Haeckel's monism, 
all of which for a time appealed to my adolescent pride in a newly 
revealed intellectualism. 

The influence of individuals, which necessarily plays a large part 
in the lives of all of us, seems in retrospect to have been relatively 
limited in my spiritual development. But one name I gratefully single 
out in blessing, that of Michael Friedlaender, the head of Jews' 
College in London. He was the exemplar of spiritual learning and 
Jearned spirituality. His modesty, gentleness, spiritual humility and 
saintlike piety, exercised a sweet and chastening influence on all 
who were privileged to know him. Israel Abrahams, too, meant much 
to me with his easy mastery of le mot juste, his amazing command 
of facts, his familiarity with so many diverse fields of knowledge, and 
his unfailing human touch. His stimulating and scintillating mind, 
and later his personal friendship, remained as an influence through 
out the years. 

The part played by the visual arts in my spiritual growth has been, 
I regret to say, a small one, though in my adolescent years of travel 
I came to know many of the great galleries of Europe and I felt the 
beauty of the great cathedrals. Perhaps the overriding denomina- 
tionah'sm of so much of this art prevented its becoming fully and 
freely an abiding part of me. On the other hand, from my earliest 
years I responded to the appeal of music. It spoke to me in universal 
accents which transcended sectarian theologies. I have always been 
moved by such melodies as Schubert's Ave Maria or the Bach-Gounod 
Ave Maria, or the Pilgrims' 1 Chorus in Tannhaeuser, or the hymn, 
Adeste Fideles, as unreservedly as if these melodies had no theological 
associations. To me they have sung in the wordless language of the 
human soul as thrillingly as do such undenominational melodies as 

208 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

Schubert's Staendchen or Bach's Melody on the G String. I owe much, 
very much, to music for giving me sustained uplift of soul. 

This I drew also from the beauty of nature itself. When I was 
a youngster in my early teens, a climb to the top of Mount Rigi 
engraved on my soul an unforgettable impression of the glories of ^ 
the physical setting of human life. There I saw unfolded the magnifi 
cent panorama matchlessly portrayed in the One Hundred and Fourth 
Psalm. I cried out with the Psalmist then, as I have done so often 
since that day, "How manifold are Thy works, O Lord! Thou hast 
made them all in wisdom; the earth is filled with Thy handiwork." 
Ruskin had taught me to look with esthetic wonder on the skies, 
clouds, and sunsets; but such experiences in the mountains of Switzer 
land taught me to look also for man's place in God's nature. 

Yet, despite the euphoria of my sweetly blessed early years, man 
did not always make it easy for me to see the divine in life. I began 
to read the newspapers, and their record of man's inhumanity to* 
man gave me many a rude shock that influenced my thinking and 
feeling. From endless newspaper headlines there beat in on my 
youthful consciousness the story of the Dreyfus case in which one 
Jew became a world symbol of the struggle of justice and truth 
against injustice, falsehood, and reactionary prejudice. My Jewish 
soul began to be stirred with an active reaction against the anti- 
semitism which I had hardly known from personal experience. The 
Kishinev pogrom of 1903 completed this formative phase of my Jew 
ish development and made me articulately one with my Jewish people 
everywhere, although the language and the inner life of Eastern 
European Jewry were still closed books to me. I, who had grown up 
as a Jew in free and happy England, began to realize my obligations 
to all Jewry. The words and the work of Theodor Herzl and the 
other far visioned Zionists of those days commenced then to have a 
meaning in my life which has deepened with the years. My active 
Zionist interests began through a paradox. At a meeting of the 
London Jewish Students' Association my brother and I led a debate 
on Zionism, he arguing for it, I against it. At the end of the debate I 
found myself a convinced Zionist! 

At that time the studies which I was pursuing at Jews' College 

David de Sola Pool 209 

began to make the Jewish past an exciting personal reality. They 
were no longer literary exercises or academic preliminaries to a 
university or a rabbinic degree. The luminous words of the Hebrew 
Bible, the penetrating sayings of the rabbis in the Midrash, the 
constant talmudic search for justice, the spiritually yearning songs of 
the medieval Hebrew poets, the persuasive living convictions of Judah 
Ha-Levi's Al Khazari, ceased to be printed words. They leaped 
from the pages and took on meaning in my life. The services and 
readings in the synagogue became for me more than recurrent 
obligations conventionally required, as they challenged me with 
their demand for articulate expression in life outside the synagogue 

With the passing of childhood and the waning of the impatient 
eagerness of adolescence, I was rapidly realizing that this was neither 
the best of all possible worlds, nor one that the optimism of late 
nineteenth century Victorian England would soon bring to a glorious 
climax of Messianic fulfilment. Fifty years ago, both the first Zionist 
Congress and the first meeting of the Socialist International were 
held. Then in editorial comment the London Times told both the 
Jews and the poor not to be concerned with the unrealistic visions of 
these congresses, as both anti-semitism and poverty would soon 
disappear from the world. But it increasingly seemed to me that Jews 
and the poor were suffering too organically and too grievously for 
such bland optimism to be acceptable. I was finding in our manmade 
world all too many generally accepted limitations on the application 
of justice and love, though the centuried traditions of the Judaism 
that I was learning to know demanded them for both Jew and 
Gentile, for poor and rich alike. I felt that all over the world the 
Kishinevs where unhappy men lived must be saved from the vileness 
of further outrages. This could come about not through protest 
meetings, nor even through Socialism, though the applied social 
justice of Fabian Socialism appealed very strongly to me, but only 
through men everywhere learning and living the religious teachings 
of their Jewish victims. A Jewish mob howling for blood was un 
thinkable. It seemed to me that the world's primary need was the 
religion I was studying. More and more the conviction strengthened 

2io Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

itself within me that my chosen life work must be to teach that 
religion. By making it better known to my own Jewish people, I 
would thereby also help make it known to a world that so sorely 
needed its healing balmu 

One day an uncle, very much a man of the world, speaking to me 
about my studying for the rabbinate, said, "You don't want to go 
into all that nonsense; you should study for the Indian Civil Service." 
But his counsel came too late; I was then set and determined on the 
religious path I wished to follow. Kipling's call to assume the white 
man's burden no longer appealed to me. 

One of the religious leaders of the London Jewish community 
also might have swerved me from the call I felt. In conversation with 
my parents he said in my presence, "What do you want for him ? Do 
you want him to have all the heartbreaks I have known ? Let him 
follow the suggestion that has come to you from Dr. Mendes in 
New York that he go to the United States." What sank deeply into 
my consciousness from his words was not his implication of ampler 
perspectives in the rabbinate in America, but his depreciation of the 
rabbinate in England. At the time I had little concept of the wider 
vistas before the rabbi in the United States. Not uncontentedly I saw 
before me the prospect of becoming the preacher-reader-teacher- 
pastor of the Anglo-Jewish ministry of the time, and this rabbi's words 
were deeply discouraging to me. But the sense of call persisted and 
triumphed over these and other discouragements. For the challenges 
which life presented to my adolescent questionings, and the special 
problems and sufferings of my Jewish people, had convinced me that 
no service which I could give would be more fruitful than that of a 
religious ministry. 

I then learned to know the London ghetto. It had heretofore been 
to me largely a terra incognita because of its insulating distance of 
a few miles from my home and its difference of language. In my 
childhood I had known of the existence of the Jewish underprivileged 
masses in London, for my father had been continuously active in the 
work of the Jewish Soup Kitchen in the East End, and in the Board of 
Guardians of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, and my mother 
was for years secretary of a grocery fund. But the time had now come 

David de Sola Pool 211 

when I had to outgrow this attitude of comfortable benevolence. The 
London East End was no longer to me only slums, calling out for 
setdement workers and philanthropy. It was a place to which I could 
turn for stimulation of Jewish living and Jewish learning, and for a 
time I went there regularly for additional instruction in Talmud. It 
was also a place where I could the more fully realize my newly dis 
covered oneness with all my Jewish people. 

My moving out beyond the happy though limiting home walls of 
the little synagogue which had delighted and satisfied my soul, was 
completed when after graduating from London University I passed 
on from my rabbinical training school of Jews' College in London, 
and went to Berlin for postgraduate work. On my first day in that 
city I saw a printed announcement of a students' anti-semitic meeting 
to be held that evening. I said that I would be interested to attend, 
but I was warned that it might be much safer for one with my non- 
Nordic looks to keep away. 

In the university of Berlin I learned in some classes what it meant 
to be segregated on special benches to which some pre-Nazi Teutonic 
students limited their Jewish fellow students. But it was in Berlin 
that I gained compensating Jewish strength, as I learned in the 
Hildesheimer Rabbinerseminar more of the rabbinic micrology 
which gave a consistent rationale to historic Jewish religious tradi 
tion. I learned from Professor Ismar Elbogen of the Lehranstalt 
fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums how Jewish religious learning 
could be linked with and expressed in service to the community. 
Browsing in Berlin's Juedische Lesehalle, I learned how in the 
teachings of Judaism one could find the foundations for virtually 
every social and spiritual cause for the blessing of mankind. In 
Berlin I also learned how the language of the ancient Bible had 
again come to life, and was once more expressing values which could 
be uniquely characterized only by the Hebrew tongue. And there 
in the vibrant Berlin of the first decade of the twentieth century,, 
within my chosen milieu I felt the heartbeat of a Jewishly informed 
and religiously loyal great Jewish community possessed of Western 
culture, while the chilling blasts of German anti-semitism without 
helped me feel the more warmly at home within the haven of that 

212 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

Jewish community. There my adolescent doubts were resolved, as 
traditional Judaism become merged within me in an organic harmony 
with the finer aspects of modern life. 

At the close of two years of postgraduate study in Germany I felt 
myself at length ready to enter the active rabbinate. I then responded 
to the call which I had not accepted when it had come to me officially 
two years earlier, to serve as assistant to Dr. H. Pereira Mendes, the 
spiritual leader of the historic Spanish and Portuguese Congregation 
Shearith Israel in New York City. In the esthetic devoutness of the 
services in its synagogue I have found the beauty of holiness. The 
complete freedom of its pulpit has given me an ever growing oppor 
tunity for religious self-expression. In the broad concept of communal 
service which had been developed by Dr. Mendes, I have sought 
opportunities for larger fields of usefulness than were ordinarily open 
to the Jewish ministry in England at the beginning of this century. 

From that day in 1907, forty-five years ago, when I first began my 
rabbinical ministry in Congregation Shearith Israel, the continuation 
of my religious story would be a recounting of many things attempted 
and perhaps of some effective service; but it was all along a pattern 
which was set at the start. For when I entered the religious ministry 
at the end of my student days, I had found the spiritual bearings 
from which subsequently I have not markedly swerved. 

I have cause to be grateful to the Zionist youth organization, 
Young Judaea, of which I was president for a number of years, for 
it was through it that I met Tamar Hirshenson who was to become 
my wife. She, the understanding daughter of a rabbi distinguished 
by his profound learning and brave originality of thinking, has 
given me a perfect fulfilment of my prayers and of the fondest hopes 
I cherished on our wedding day, and has sensitized and deepened 
all my spiritual reactions. 

Within the expanding field of my ministry I have tried broadly to 
express the message of religion through work for Jewish and general 
causes. However, one hurdle has always stood between me and a 
common run of organizational activity. I have never been able to 
work effectively through the instrumentality of rigid sectarianism or 
party politics. A regimented partisan alignment, exclusively under 

David de Sola Pool 213 

group A or under group B or either for this party leader or for that 
one, has always alienated me by its strabismic falsifying of perspective 
values, and its frequent setting of secondary interests above the 
supreme cause. Sometimes when a great issue has had to be fought 
through, such as the question of partition of Palestine that was 
debated at the Zionist Congress at Zurich in 1937, a convention has 
been for me a soul-stirring experience; but I can find little place on 
the credit side for religious or social work done through disputatious 
sectarianism or organization politics. 

In the day by day opportunity to give service which has come to 
me in the pulpit, or at personal religious functions such as weddings 
or funerals, as well as on the lecture platform and before the radio 
microphone, I have tried to apply the eternal truths of religion to the 
problems of the day, in the spirit of the social idealism of the 
prophets. I am afraid that I have borrowed little from their matchless 
gift of moral denunciation. There has, therefore, been nothing sensa 
tional in my message. Indeed, reporters asking me for advance 
publicity must often have found me apparently uncooperative. For 
there is no recognized publicity value in such emphases as that 
religion is the supreme essential for mankind's enduring happiness, 
nations should act toward one another and cooperate in a spirit of 
justice and brotherhood, war must cease, social justice alone can 
end class war and give assurance of man's abiding well-being, under 
privileged peoples must be accorded their rightful place in the unity 
of mankind, etc., etc. However, my views on religion have found 
frequent publication, such as in the article on "The Place of God in 
Modern Life" published in the Columbia University Quarterly, or 
in the annual pastoral messages dealing with the place of religion in 
life that I have issued to my congregation for the past quarter of a 

My religious views have perhaps come to their fullest expression in 
the English translation of the Sephardic Hebrew prayerbooks on 
which I have worked for twenty years. From the centuried Hebrew 
page in those prayerbooks rise all the overtones of the passionate 
soul of the Jewish people in its transcendent joys and its unequalled 
sorrows, in its sobbing humility and its loftiest aspiration. On the 

21^ Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

corresponding English page, which usually bears a literal translation, 
that soul speaks in narrower terms. This is in part due to the semantic 
limitations imposed by the dominantly non-Jewish associations of 
the English phraseology. Still greater inadequacy is imposed on the 
English translation by limitations in the spiritual perceptions and 
sensitivity of the translator. Yet, the thousands of revisions progres 
sively made in the English translation of the later volumes in the 
series give some indication that there may have been a continuing 
spiritual development in the translator. 

Both World War I and World War II diverted me in a measure 
from the usual rounds of congregational and communal activities 
into pastoral work for uniformed men. In the First World War I 
helped organize Jewish Welfare Board service for men in camps in 
New England and in the Southwestern and Western States. In the 
Second World War as Chairman of the Jewish Welfare Board's 
Committee on Army and Navy Religious Activities it was my lot 
to give a great deal of my time to developing Jewish religious service 
for men in the army, navy, and air force. This was carried out 
principally through the work of the 311 Jewish chaplains who came 
forward, not at the call of a draft but each in response to the call of 
his own conscience. 

The First World War left me an articulate and ardent pacifist. I 
remained a pacifist so long as the world remained relatively sane. 
But when faced by the maniacal obscenities and horrors of Nazi 
Germany, I felt myself compelled to sacrifice the sanity of non 
violence and pacifist absolutism. If six million Jews and countless 
myriads of other peaceful men, women, and little children had to 
give their lives before the sadistic blood lust of the Nazis, it were 
better that they had not gone as sheep to the slaughter, but that they 
had gone down fighting to destroy evil incarnate. 

The First World War, waged, as we then hoped, to destroy German 
militarism, brought on the Second World War. Must this in its turn 
prove to be but the prelude to still another war, a world destroying 
war of atomic bombs or hydrogen bombs? The Kellogg-Briand 
Peace Pacts, the League of Nations, and the other instruments so far 
forged by man to create peace, have failed. These failures and the 

David de Sola Pool 2/5 

vileness and the infinite sufferings created by the World Wars have 
come perilously near to shaking my faith in man; but my faith in 
God has not been shaken. Religion and only religion still offers the 
ultimate hope of saving mankind from a self-destruction brought 
about through unmastered human bestiality. 

After the First World War, there came to me an invitation to go to 
Palestine as a member of the Zionist Commission. This Commission 
was charged with helping implement the Balfour Declaration that 
in Palestine would once more be established a national home for the 
Jewish people. My congregation had generously given me leave of 
absence during the war to travel continuously far and wide through 
out the United States to help bring Judaism to the men in service. 
But now the war was over, and I could not persuade my congregation 
to give me another extended leave of absence to work in what seemed 
then to be far away Palestine. Yet the moment was historic. I felt 
that I had to make my own decision to follow a compelling call. That 
decision gave me a precious and an unforgettable experience. I am 
deeply grateful today that for three years I was associated with the 
setting of stakes in a Palestine that was pioneering for the rebirth of 

It was the beginning of the year 1919 when Mrs. Pool, our baby, 
and I set out from New York. After nearly three months of travel 
in a war ravaged world we came to Palestine. There it was my good 
fortune to be assigned work that was almost a continuation of one 
aspect of my ministry, for it fell to my lot to take over the work of 
the Joint Distribution Committee in Syria and Palestine. From 1919 
to the end of 1921, I found myself engaged primarily in the life 
giving task of directing postwar relief and reconstruction. This 
meant not only concern with the externals of budgets and accounts, 
allotments, expenditures, and deficits. It also demanded the reality of 
care and aid for widows and orphans and helpless old men and 
women. It called for creating opportunities for work for old and 
for young. It involved giving a hand to refugee immigrant pioneers 
(halutzim)* It meant establishing a loan bank. It expressed itself in 
helping sustain rabbis and students in the talmudic academies 
(yeshivoi). It involved providing for the blind and other physically 

2/6 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

handicapped. It brought me close indeed to the heart of my Jewish 
people struggling to reestablish themselves after the sufferings of the 
war, and it enabled me to express the ministry of neighbor love. 

Moreover, the Jewish roots of my spiritual life were deepened 
immeasurably by contact in Palestine with both ancient Biblical 
Zionism in action and also with modern collective settlements, with 
the pious rabbis of the talmudic yeshivot as well as with the road- 
building and marsh-draining halutzim, with the Wailing Wall of 
the past as well as with the old-new throbbing Hebraic culture of 
the nascent Jewish state. As I worked for Zion of today and of 
tomorrow, for three years I walked the streets of Jerusalem with the 
Psalmist, with Isaiah, with Jeremiah, with Ezra, with Rabbi Johanan 
ben Zakkai. I was one with my spiritual ancestors, one with my 
Jewish people of today striving to make itself free, and one with my 
Jewish people of the generations to come. In Zion, the spiritual center 
of the Jewries of the world, I found within my spiritual being an 
achieved harmony of both time and space. In the Holy Land I 
completely found myself as a Jew. 

At the end of 1921, this opportunity for postwar service in Palestine 
came to an end. I then returned to the United States and helped 
develop the work of the newly organized Jewish Education Associa 
tion of New York City. But when in 1922 a renewed call came to me 
from the congregation that I had served for eleven years before going 
to Palestine, my inner being had no choice but to respond. There 
had been in me no spiritual break, for the three or four intervening 
years had given me a deeper understanding of the problems and the 
aspirations of Jewish life, and of the rabbinate as its workshop of 
service. With, I hope, a broader vision of human needs and values 
and with wider worldly experience, I returned to my chosen rabbinic 
field of work the more assured that in the ministry I could express 
the deepest yearnings of my soul. 

In a public life now covering more than four decades I have 
tried to serve not alone the one congregation to which I have minis 
tered but also many public causes. In that service I have attained a 
unity of faith in my Jewish people and its religious tradition, and 
in mankind's future under God. I have discovered for myself Juda- 

David de Sola Pool 2/7 

ism's deep truth that Israel, the Land of Israel, the divinely revealed 
Torahj and God are one, and that under God man is one. May such 
days as may still be given me in life never shake this inner spiritual 
unity and peace. 


The very phrases, "Spiritual Autobiography," and "Spiritual Self- 
Portrait," are upsetting to me yes in fact, terrifying. They were 
all of that when they were first directed to me by our good friend, 
Dr. Louis Finkelstein, and I do not think I would be honest if I 
did not say frankly that for the past several months I have been 
walking around them if not away from them. To compile a "Spiritual 
Autobiography" covering a period of almost three score years would, 
I suppose, involve an ability to psychoanalyze oneself which this one, 
at least, does not possess, and probably result in entanglement in a 
controversy between the Freudian school and the religions. On that 
altar, I am certain, no layman should knowingly lay himself! 

Well, to allay my fears, I have exercised the right of construing 
what is meant by the phrase, "Spiritual Autobiography," to mean 
a statement of those thoughts one has and of those things one believes 
which presumably made him the individual he is at the moment, 
without involving the necessity of reaching a conclusion as to whether 
or not the result is good or bad. I suppose it means, too, a considera 
tion of what has motivated one to do or not to do those things which 
one has or has not done. 

In my own case, those things which make for being extend back 
to the very beginning and cover a multitude of fields of activities. I 
suppose it is impossible in any scientific sense to measure the degree 
to which any particular phase of life has affected one more than 
another, and yet I suppose in the over-all canvas we are bound to 


220 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

highlight some things that are vivid in our recollections, as indicating 
in some way the kind of person one is or thinks one is. 

Almost fundamental in the creation of the present being, there 
was inculcated from the beginning and existed during the process, 
the idea of a sense of fairness as a prerequisite to the proper and 
happy existence, not only as related to oneself but in reference to one's 
co-existors. One of a people that had experienced what it considered 
unfair treatment for many centuries, I came into the world at a time 
when that group in this country, at least was throwing off its 
shackles and being accepted by others as proper material for assimila 
tion. As is not always the case, that arrival led one's parents and, in 
due course, oneself to realize fully the delights of the absence of 
persecution (in the large, at least) and a concomitant desire that 
those delights be shared by others, regardless of their previous condi 
tion of servitude, their race, color, or religion. 

Nothing stands out clearer in my mind, as a youth, than the 
teachings, both at home and at school and all the way through 
college, of the righteousness of doing the fair thing toward others, 
and, incidentally, toward oneself. The fair thing meant the right 
thing; it meant not doing to oneself those things that disturb one's 
conscience and it meant not doing to others those things that disturb 
the tranquillity of their existence. Over all this, doing the fair thing 
meant making life pleasant for all meant, of course, recognizing 
that all were alike. It meant recognizing the Brotherhood of Man. 

Today, I think we think more of the necessity of the Brotherhood 
of Man. In the days of my youth we thought more of the goodness 
of the Brotherhood of Man. It goes without saying that we, of course, 
were taught, participated in, and recognized the conception of the 
Fatherhood of God, but I have a distinct feeling that we felt that, 
to the extent that that concept called for implementation, it found its 
best expression in the actual practice of what is meant by the true 
vision of the Brotherhood of Man. 

In a smaller locality, even in a smaller country than we have now, 
the feeling that one had neighbors, the sense that they were brothers, 
was unquestionably more intimate than it is at the moment. Size 
in any activity presents problems some that can be solved happily for 

Basil O'Connor 221 

the advancement of civilization, and some that, at least until they 
are solved, seem to be retarding the spiritual progress of mankind. 
Size was not at all as important a factor a half -century ago as it is 
today socially, economically, or governmentally. The recognition of 
the spirit of the Brotherhood of Man could frequently be and 
usually was accomplished on the intimate personal basis, whereas 
today, more and more, that end has to be secured through mechanisms 
of large units and large organizations yes, even in the churches. 

But some of us, at least, of those who had that early inculcation 
of the real spirit of the Brotherhood of Man, like to think that we 
have been able to retain much of it through our whole life. There 
is not any question that it has affected us fundamentally in whatever 
activities we have engaged. We have always felt, I think, that the fair 
thing is the right thing, and that the fair thing to others is the right 
thing, regardless of its cost to oneself. 

When one is deeply imbued with the real spirit of the Brotherhood 
of Man, I think it carries one much farther than simply doing to 
others in one's daily contact, those things that are right. I think it 
makes one seek to be of affirmative assistance to one's fellowmen 
whenever and wherever help is needed. I think one is apt to find one's 
self as I have found myself, engaging willingly and happily as a 
volunteer in great humanitarian organizations, such as The American 
National Red Cross, The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, 
Tuskegee Institute for colored students, and The National Confer 
ence of Christians and Jews because through such organizations 
one finds that one can share with others that part of one's self of 
which one is glad to give as it is needed. In fact, that desire exists in all 
of us, if we are but given an opportunity to express it. 

One of our great problems today, confronted as we are with size, 
is to see to it that the individual is not deprived of that opportunity 
to express himself in terms of others, which is a necessary part of 
his mental, and, in fact, spiritual existence. If there ever comes a time 
when no one can do anything for others, we will have a world that 
none of us these days would recognize. 

I think the whole concept of fairness involved many other things 
that impressed some of us during all our lives. I think it carried 

222 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

with it the implication of merit that merit should be recognized, 
that merit should be rewarded, and that the opportunity should be 
given to enable one to establish and to demonstrate one's merit. I 
have said time and again, and I repeat it now in my opinion the 
essence o the democratic way of life is the merit system. Eliminate 
that and democracy falls. Choose men for office, lift men to high 
position regardless of merit and you have a political society that is 
in no sense described by the word, "Democracy." It may be difficult 
to define "merit." It is difficult to define many other things that we 
readily recognize in our existence. But I think we all know well what 
we mean by "merit." Unless people are given an opportunity to 
demonstrate that they have merit yes, in fact, unless they are given 
an opportunity to use that which they have acquired through merit, 
you have what we frequently see not fairness, but unfairness. So 
long as we have a society in which it is established that those who 
through the normal processes acquire worth in their various activities 
shall in general reap rewards, we shall have a happy and contented 
people. If that condition of affairs does not exist we shall have, as I 
think we have had in this country in the past half-century, times 
when people are extremely disgruntled and discouraged, and we 
shall have as we now have a very unhappy world. The possession 
of power through happenstance or through force, whether it be in 
the hands of an individual or a nation, can never make for happiness 
or peace. It is only when those in the place of authority are respected, 
as being there meritoriously, that localities or the world pursue 
the even tenor of their way in the spirit of the Brotherhood of 

An integral part of the merit system was work. 

The unwillingness to labor or work, the desire to enjoy the fruits 
thereof without the toil therefor have caused the downfall of nations 
and empires and the ruination of countless individuals otherwise 
endowed with ability and intelligence. "Observe," said Sophocles, 
"without labor nothing prospers." 

Some time ago I said that a nation is only as strong as its people 
are well. Probably it would be much more accurate to say that a 
nation is only as strong as its people are well and willing to 

Basil O'Connor 223 

To the truth contained in this simple statement, we are too fre 
quently blind. 

It may seem strange to us in this day and age to come face to face 
with the thought that work or labor has not always been an honorable 
institution. While Lowell was exclaiming, "Blessed are the horny 
hands of toil," Hawthorne was writing the sour lines, "Labor is the 
curse of the world, and nobody can meddle with it without be 
coming proportionately brutified." Sometimes I think that Haw 
thorne's idea seems to be recurring! 

The truth of the matter is, however, that during only a relatively 
short time in the history of the world has toil and labor been con 
sidered a noble pursuit to be followed by man. It has not always 
been true that, to quote Mrs. Osgood, "Labor, all labor, is noble and 

Prior to the time of the advent of Christianity, work was always 
the province of the slaves the lot of the conquered degrading, 
and humiliating, and a pastime in which the so-called free man or 
noble man did not indulge. 

The concept of labor in medieval times can be no better described 
than it was by Langenstein when he said: 

Heavy laborer's work is the inevitable yoke of punishment which, ac 
cording to God's righteous verdict, has been laid upon all the sons of 
Adam. But many of Adam's descendants seek in all sorts of cunning 
ways to escape from the yoke and to live in idleness without labor, and 
at the same time to have a superfluity of useful and necessary things; 
some by robbery and plunder, some by usurious dealings, others by lying, 
deceit, and all the countless forms of dishonest and fraudulent gain, by 
which men are forever seeking to get riches and abundance without toil 
not so, however, do the reasonable sons of Adam proceed. 

I think one would not be exaggerating unduly if one made the 
observation that some of the descendants of Adam are still seeking 
"in all sorts of cunning way to escape from the yoke" of labor. 

With the advent of Christianity and the teachings of its leader, 
new thoughts and ideas were presented. And among the boons which 
Christianity has given to mankind, none has had a greater impact 
on the thinking of men than the idea and conception that work and 

224 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

labor are noble. With the upheaval accompanying the teachings of 
Christ, as J. G. Holland tells us, came for the first time the thought, 
"We work and that is Godlike." 

Industrial work (says Levasseur) in the times of antiquity had always 
had, in spite of the institutions of certain emperors, a degrading char 
acter, because it had its roots in slavery; after the invasion, the grossness 
of the barbarians and the leveling of the towns did not help to rehabilitate 
it. It was the church which, in proclaiming that Christ was the son of a 
carpenter, and the aposdes were simple workmen, made known to the 
world that work is honorable as well as necessary. 

There are indications here and there, at various times, that work 
and labor are unnecessary and ignoble; but I think civilization has 
progressed sufficiently far since the advent of Christianity to make 
us all realize full well that work and labor are not only noble, but 
necessary for our very welfare. 

It is to labor (says McCullough) and to labor only, that man owes 
everything possessed of exchangeable value. Labor is the talisman that 
has raised him from the condition of the savage; that has changed the 
desert and the forest into cultivated fields; that has covered the earth 
with cities, and the ocean with ships; that has given us plenty, comfort, 
and elegance, instead of want, misery, and barbarism. 

Let no one tell you otherwise labor is the law of happiness. "To 
labor rightly and earnestly is to adopt the regimen of manhood and 
womanhood.'* Holland goes on to say, "It is to come into sympathy 
with the great struggle of humanity toward perfection. It is to adopt 
the fellowship of all the great and good the world has ever known." 

Well, we felt that way about work. In what might be referred to 
as "my day and age" we felt that work was the common and happy 
condition of man. We felt that it was through work, through occupa 
tion, through healthy occupation, that man not only achieved accom 
plishment but participated in what Holland called "The fellowship 
of all the great and good the world has ever known." And our parents 
knew at least, some of them knew that no matter what the level 
of the occupation was, the greater the knowledge one possessed, the 
better work was done and the happier its performance. 

Basil O'Connor 225 

And that, in turn, led to a desire for more knowledge, more 
knowledge through education through education at all levels, with 
the result that real efforts and sacrifices were made to attain that 
education which gave one a better understanding of the life in which 
one lived, and in which one had to live, including a greater respect 
for those who had to live that life with one. And the urge for 
education which seems to me to have existed in my day was founded 
on the belief that it was worthwhile intrinsically and that it had 
value as related to life and the problems of life. Education was not 
sought because others were seeking it, or because it was "the thing to 
do." It was sought because it was believed to be good. 

Out of all this, as hazy and indefinite as it may seem to you, I 
think there came upon some of us a definite feeling that we lived 
not alone in this world; that we were not to lead our lives as we 
saw fit; that we were not to be wolves seeking only to pounce upon 
the defenseless. I think we realized that life could have meaning only 
if we knew that we were but one of many and that there could be no 
success or happiness no real success or happiness for anyone of us, 
unless in a very general sense it was shared by all. And I think from 
that point we charted a course and set out on a journey to attempt to 
bring to others a participation in those good things in life which we 
might acquire on the way. We may not have succeeded in that to any 
great extent, but without that purpose a purpose shared of course 
by millions of others what relatively little has been done would 
never have been accomplished. 

While we have been on that journey, and as aware as we have 
been of man's fundamental spiritual requirements, we have made 
an inventory of the human being's mundane necessities, and have, 
of course, listed food, shelter, clothing, freedom, and recreation as 
essential to the enjoyment of a happy life. Yet all of these, even though 
they were possessed in abundance, would be of little, if any, value 
unless there were added to the asset side of the balance sheet that all- 
important item, good health. 

During that journey to which I have referred it has been impossible, 
of course, for each of us to gather and bring to others all of those 
assets which make for man's happy life. We have from sheer 

226 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

necessity had to limit ourselves to some items that appealed to us, for 
some reason or other, more particularly. And so it has been that in 
my own case, of those necessities that mean so much to the normal 
worldly life of man, health has interested me particularly. Without 
sound bodies, without minds functioning normally, there can be no 
enthusiasm for living, for "Life is not to live but to be well" (Martial) . 

But more important than all that, without health there can be no 
clear, sound thinking or reasoning lacking which there can be no 
worthwhile social, political, or economic progress. Without health, 
sorrows are deeper and joys lose their zest. As Sir William Temple 
put it, "Health is the soul that animates all enjoyments of life, which 
fade and are tasteless, if not dead, without it." 

Those interested in the cause of health as I am in the fight 
against infantile paralysis know all this, and they are anxious, there 
fore, that every possible effort be made to prevent any lowering of 
the standard of the health of our people. 

Frequently we hear interesting stories, and, in fact, much has 
been written, about the great accomplishments in history of those 
unfortunately not possessors of good health. All that those tales con 
tain is undoubtedly true, but no one ever tells us (because no one 
ever can) what greater accomplishments might have been achieved 
by those same individuals had illness not retarded them. 

And here again we must recognize the simple fact that health is the 
normal condition and ill health or lack of health the abnormal or 
unnatural condition. Some of man's ailments are unquestionably 
due to factors over which science has not yet been able to gain con 
trol. Others, in turn, are due to neglect where neglect is not necessary. 

All that can be done in the first of these two classifications is to 
continue every effort of scientific research and the medical profession 
to conquer the unknown. The accomplishments of the past in the 
great wars against disease which have been waged so persistently and 
so sincerely by men of science, are our justification for believing 
that each year will reduce that field where now there is no knowledge. 
That is the kind of fight we are carrying on against infantile 

Where unnecessary neglect impairs the well-being of the individual, 

Basil O'Connor 227 

we can only hope that through a continued educational process, 
he will be brought to the full realization that he and he alone is his 
own worst enemy. An Arabian proverb says: "He who has health 
has hope and he who has hope has everything." We must strive to 
teach the individual particularly the youth of our country that 
improving the physical condition of a people is not merely for the 
purpose of extending the span of life. Far better is it that while we 
live, we live well. And let us hope that we may convince them, too, 
that the acquiring and possessing and enjoying of good health is not 
a pastime to be postponed and indulged in in old age. Health or ill 
health is here now it will be here tomorrow and the next day. If 
eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, constant attention is the price 
of good health. 

But there is another and much larger field than the two to which 
I have referred, where illness and sickness are not due to the unknown 
or to unnecessary neglect, but to the lack of opportunity for main 
taining normal health. And here, just as in the case of the man 
willing to work, the man who wants to be well, wants to have all 
his faculties sound and intact, must be given the chance to have and 
possess good health. 

No one is more fully cognizant than am I of the great contributions 
that have been made to the health of mankind by our great founda 
tions and the medical profession itself. Nor is anyone more keen 
in his awareness of the work the practicing physician has done and 
is doing throughout the world for humanity, without thought of 
fee or compensation. But the task is enormous and is never done. 

The discovery of the cause of a disease or the method of preventing 
its spread does not conclude the subject. Generations succeed genera 
tions; people must be kept informed and advised of the knowl 
edge that exists while discoveries go on in attempts to solve the un 

More and more we are all coming to the clear realization of the 
fact, particularly as society becomes more complex, that there are 
certain activities in our life of such importance and of such magnitude 
that, if they cannot be properly and fully performed by individuals 
and private organizations, they present fields in which government 

228 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

may properly participate more than it has heretofore. If in harboring 
such views we acquire unsavory titles, we are not deterred. 

Some of us, at least, who see the real necessity of health for the 
individual, if he is to have happiness and contentment, and who 
visualize the enormity of the task of giving him the opportunity to 
possess it, are not overwhelmed by the fact that the field of health 
seems to be particularly one in which government, not only may, but 
should, continually take a part and actively engage. And such 
participation need not in any sense eliminate, or reduce, or impair 
the work being done at the present, or to be done in the future by 
already existing health agencies or the medical profession. 

If we must think of kings, we all like to think of a benevolent 
king; but whether a king be benevolent or not, whether he sincerely 
have at heart the health of his people, because he is interested in 
their happiness and success, or whether he be one of those bad kings 
of history, interested only in using his subjects for the purpose of 
conquest of others in either case he must have great concern if a 
large percentage of his people are ill. 

A nation is only as strong as its people are well and that will 
always be true, whether the times be warlike, and those people are 
used for what seem to us to be futile purposes, or whether the times 
be peaceful, and people are interested in spiritual, political, economic, 
and social advancement. 

As we journeyed still farther along that road to which I referred, 
we realized all too well that if there is to be fairness and happiness 
and brotherhood in this life, some of us, at least, must devote our 
selves to the elimination of those prejudices that make the survival of 
the Brotherhood of Man seem somewhat doubtful. The dreadful 
events of the past few years have taught us that in this one world no 
nation can be wholly free unless all are free and that prejudice and 
hatred 0/zywhere are a threat to peace <fz^rywhere. The infection of 
animosities that set men in hostile camps in any country seeps across 
national boundaries, is airborne across oceans, and contaminates the 
world. As it was once said that the United States could not exist half 
free and half slave, so the free world of today cannot long survive, if 
brotherhood is anywhere flouted and denied. 

Basil O'Connor 229 

The Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant faiths, whatever their differ 
ences, alike teach the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of 
God. They stress the religious character of the obligation to practice 
the Brotherhood of Man. That practice is the logical sequence of 
their religious profession. The simple fact is that no manmzde sanc 
tion will support brotherhood in any and all circumstances or among 
any and all people. Any sanction that man makes he can unmake. 
Any obligation that man im poses he can depose. If there is an obliga 
tion forever binding on all men to treat all other men justly and 
fraternally, it can only be an obligation that comes from outside man 
himself. That is the simple fact. The Founding Fathers of the 
American Republic, whose world was nowhere nearly so upsidedown 
as ours, saw that very clearly. They said that all men are equal and 
are endowed with inalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the 
pursuit of happiness precisely because they were so created and 
so endowed by their Creator. 

Whether one has had a definite philosophy of life which one has 
followed unswervingly and continuously, or whether one has sub 
consciously pursued a line of activity that has imprinted its mark on 
one's existence, I cannot say. For myself I can say only that, because 
they were created and endowed by their Creator, I have always 
believed that all men are equal and are endowed with inalienable 
rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that 
those activities which have interested me most have been of a nature 
through which I believe men will be more likely to reach those ends. 


I was born into a Congregational parsonage in Peabody, Massa 
chusetts, in 1882. After a second pastorate in Manchester, New 
Hampshire, my father became president of Olivet College, Michigan. 
I graduated from Olivet in 1903, and therefore lived at home, not 
merely as a child, but during the years of school and college. 

Father, as a student at Andover Seminary, in the 1870$, belonged 
to the generation which was throwing off the last remnants of the 
hereditary Calvinism of New England Congregationalism. He was 
an excellent preacher, a beloved pastor, and a wise teacher. His 
interests were warmly human, and he took litde interest in systematic 
theology. He never preached at me or tried to indoctrinate me. His 
influence on me was largely that of his unconscious example. When 
I finally left home he said, "I suppose, now you are going away, I 
ought to say something to you. I think that all I have to say to you 
is what the Lord said to the prophet Ezekiel, 'Son of man, stand upon 
thy feet!'" I have been grateful over all the years for those few, 
reassuring words. 

Mother was the family theologian. To the end of her days she took 
a keen interest in matters of Biblical criticism. She had something of 
Newman's dread of liberalism. She looked with apprehension at the 
pronouncements of the higher critics and often spoke with distaste of 
the works of a German gentleman whom she insisted on calling 
"Karnak.' r She spoke the word with the same contempt which 
Churchill used to put into his references to the "Nazzys." 


2J2 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

Such matters were much to the front in table talk in our home. I 
remember the distress with which mother told father that our new 
minister in the village church at Olivet, a fledgling graduate of Union 
Seminary, was rumored not to believe in the Virgin Birth. Father 
seemed not to share to the full her fears and scruples. Overheard 
conversations of this sort familiarized me as a boy with the fact that 
the letter of the faith once delivered to the saints was in process of 
change. Awareness of this fact saved me, during my own theological 
studies, from the shock often experienced in seminary years by more 
innocent students. I knew that damnable errors and heresies were 
abroad in the land, and never was thrown into any panic by that 
awareness. Indeed, I am inclined to think that the memory of those 
earlier years persuaded me that if there is a theological skeleton in the 
closet, it is no use to lock the door and throw the key down the 
well; it is much better to open the door and have a look at the brute. 

Meanwhile much of my formal religious training was had from my 
mother. She made me learn by heart many of the Psalms. I can still 
remember sitting on the floor on the far side of her sewing machine, 
pumping up and down the shaft which connected the foot pedal with 
the apparatus overhead, thus easing her work for her, and reciting to 
her the majestic text of ^the i04th Psalm. To this day it is hard to 
dissociate those words from the physical sensations which went 
with the first pronouncement of them. I still feel that working one's 
arms up and down, as the Psalm is said, is the orthodox liturgical 
and ceremonial procedure. 

But, if the theology of the ancients did not persist unchallenged 
in our home, the traditions of Puritan culture were still in force. 
The tabus against all the supposed vices of the world were strictly 
observed. In particular, Sunday was scrupulously kept. It had its 
prohibitions against all games. The only exception allowed was a 
game of biblical cards, in which, as I now look back on it, we 
substituted the names of Bible heroes and heroines for the kings and 
queens and jacks of the devil's playthings. In retrospect those stirring 
games seem to me to have had little real religious content, and to 
have been by any modern standard pedagogically most irregular. As 
for books, those of travel were allowed and long hours were spent 

Willard L. Sperry 233 

over Dr. Kane's Arctic explorations. Hence a much later enthusiasm 
for books about the Poles and the Everest expeditions. I sometimes 
wish that I could recover the mood of those boyhood Sundays. Our 
modern secularized Sunday, which has succeeded its Puritan prede 
cessor, has cost me something of my childhood feeling for the Wholly 
Other, which ought to be a part of any religious experience. Church 
bells on a Sunday morning sounded differently in those days than 
they do today. So, again, I remember the awe almost to the point of 
holy fear, with which I sat beside my parents in church, while they 
received the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper. That experience 
gave me some childish clue as to what Otto means by the Numinous. 
I still feel that there ought to be in any religion an element of mystery, 
and am constitutionally averse to what Whitehead has called the 
vice of over-simplification. 

Matters of conscience were all important to both father and mother, 
although I should say, if there be any distinction between religion and 
ethics, that the latter field was my mother's special bailiwick. We 
children and there were two sisters as well as myself were brought 
up with a dread of lies. The lie was the all but unforgivable sin. 
The tests for truthfulness were rigorous, and we were sometimes 
sorely vexed to know what the truth about some past fact had been. 
However, that discipline persuaded me that sincerity is a cardinal 
religious virtue, whatever the price for its observance or penalty for 
its abuse. I have at times wished that in my boyhood and youth 
there might have been a hint of the world of the Cavalier, some 
concession to life's "cakes and ale," but in spite of its rigors it was 
a happy, wholesome life, and its accepted usages were a good prepara 
tion for exactions met in later years. I was familiar from the first with 
the fact there are in life such processes as self-examination and self- 
discipline, and such valid requirements as reverence, truthfulness, 
and duty. On the whole, I am grateful for this Puritan heritage, 
although I realize that I am by no means in these later years a 
conspicuous exemplar of some of its one time mores. I mention these 
facts because in such matters "the boy is father to the man," far more 
so than we commonly suppose. 

As a matter of course and custom I joined the church in my mid- 

234 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

teens. I do not recall any particular insights or emotions connected 
with that act. It was merely one of the things one did at about that 
time of life. Indeed the whole conventional apparatus of religion 
existed as something more or less apart from my own inner self. I 
have never been able to believe that we are all born not merely 
innocent, but fully endowed with some innate religion which subse 
quently becomes soiled by the stain and slow contagion of the world; 
in short, that a first hand religion of childhood turns into a second 
hand and conventional religion in maturity. The fact is that we all 
inherit what is to us at first a second hand religious heritage which 
the happenings of later life may turn into a first hand experience. 
There is something to be said for the principles of Anabaptism. Such 
would seem to be the meaning of those otherwise meaningless words 
of Jesus, "If ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, 
who shall give you that which is your own?" 

As an undergraduate at Olivet, because the college was at that 
time unequivocally denominational, I had to take a course in Christian 
Evidences. The course was given by a hard, doctrinaire old gentleman 
whose rigid mind and dull lectures were guaranteed to discourage 
any possible interest in religion. His nature and character were 
anything but an evidence of that which he professed. He never 
touched the mind, let alone the heart, of the healthy young pagans 
who sat before him. 

On the other hand, we had on the faculty a young professor of 
English, a devout man with real imagination who taught us our 
English literature; in particular Carlyle, Tennyson, and Browning. 
In so far as I have ever had in my life anything corresponding to 
sudden conversion, that experience came when I was reading, as part 
of the assignment for the day, an early chapter of Sartor Resartus in 
which Teuf elsdroeckh looks down at night time from his watch tower 
upon the seething caldron of the city beneath. Books, which until that 
time had been something outside me, passed miraculously inside to 
take up their permanent lodgment there. So, a little later in the 
course, Browning's Epistle of Karshish and his Death in the Desert 
became, not merely a living introduction to the Bible, but more than 
that, an intimation of Christianity itself. 

Willard L. S ferry 235 

During my undergraduate days, in so far as I had thought about 
my own future, I planned to go into medicine and perhaps into 
surgery in particular. Hence most of my elecdves in college were in 
the fields of chemistry and biology. In the latter field I had the 
friendly guidance of a first rate biologist, and with him did some 
work on unknown material, dredged in the Japan Sea and sent to 
our laboratory for study. There were no books to tell us what to 
look for, only the pickled specimens to look at. Thus necessitated, 
first hand venture into the unknown gave me some hint of what the 
scientific method really is and how it works. If I am today merely a 
lapsed scientist, the mood and method of that laboratory gave me 
at least some slight understanding of the ways in which modern 
science sets about its task. That brief insight yielded me a fellow 
feeling for the scientist and has been of much incidental help to me 
as a preacher and teacher. 

In my senior year in college a boyhood friend with whom I had 
grown up and gone through college died a sudden and tragic death. 
He had developed a serious brain trouble and had been told the 
diagnosis. I have always supposed that he committed suicide, in 
order to throw off the burden of what promised to be an insupportable 
life, and to save his family from the burden of such a problem. The 
shock of that experience shook my whole world off center and out 
of line. I felt I had to find for myself some answer to the tragedy 
which had befallen him. It shifted my thinking from natural science 
to reflective religion of a much more intimate sort than any I had 
previously known. 

I had been active in the college YM.C.A., and one of the national 
officers of that organization suggested that I become a travelling 
student secretary. Not knowing where to turn or what to do next 
after graduation, I accepted his proposal, and became circuit rider 
for the Y.M.CA. in Kansas, Oklahoma, and parts west. It was not 
an experience which I enjoyed or on which I look back with any 
satisfaction. It was, for one thing, too desultory. But beyond that the 
theological dogmatism of the movement at the time, and more 
particularly its rather superheated emotionalism were not my affair. 
Robert E. Speer, who had an almost magical influence on the students 

2j6 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

of those days, advised me not to try to make "student work" a life 
work. He said that a man was too apt to find himself in midlife at a 
dead end in that setting, and told me, if I wished a religious vocation, 
to enter the regular ministry of the church. 

Meanwhile, in the course of my wanderings in the wide open 
spaces of Kansas a letter came from my father, saying that he had 
been appointed one of a committee of three college presidents in 
Michigan to choose the first Rhodes Scholar from that state. He 
enclosed all the preliminary publicity from Oxford, saying that he 
thought I might like to glance at it. I not only glanced at it, I decided 
on the spot to try for the scholarship myself. When father heard this 
he resigned from the Committee, and I found myself in due time the 
elected Rhodes Scholar of the inaugural year, 1904. 

I only knew, in a vague way, that I wished to study theology at 
Oxford. I wrote the Rhodes Secretary, saying that I was planning to 
enter the "Nonconformist" ministry, and asked him to choose some 
College in my behalf, which was on the whole liberal and low church 
rather than ultra conservative and high church. He chose Queen's 
College and no choice could have been happier or more fortu 

This is, perhaps, the moment to enter on the record one of my 
inferences as to life from my own experience. None of the really 
important happenings in life have been of my own planning. The 
opportunity to go to Oxford came unexpectedly out of the blue. So 
with other and later events. So far from having planned them for 
myself they have had the quality of seeming to be done on me rather 
than planned and executed by me. I can understand the writer of the 
apocryphal gospel who said that his mother, the Holy Spirit, seized 
him by the hair of the head and carried him to Jerusalem. Call it 
grace or foreordination or election or determinism, or what you will, 
my own experience has been strangely wanting in fulfilled fore 
thought, and has been instead a matter of yielding to sudden and 
wholly unexpected imperatives served on me by the outside world. 
My religious experience has never been a matter of mere subjectivity. 
Objective realities have come and laid their claim on me, and I have 
had no option but to consent. Hence a certain skepticism as to one's 

Wittard L. Sperry 237 

ability to plot one's life in advance on the basis of some five year or 
ten year plan. 

The three years at Oxford, 1904-1 907, were indubitably "forma 
tive." I was fortunate in entering Queen's College just at the time 
that Canon Streeter came to it as Dean and Theological Tutor. The 
tutorial system at its best is by far the most effective medium for 
education. I knew it at its best. Streeter was not overworked with 
tutees and gave me unlimited and generous time. At our first meet 
ing he set me the task of writing for our next meeting a paper on 
Paul's idea of salvation by faith. I knew nothing about it, but got 
some most useful information from the Sanday and Headlam Com 
mentary on Romans. I duly relayed this information to Streeter. He 
said, "I think this is rather dry bones, don't you? I know that is what 
Sanday and Headlam say. But what do you think about it? Go back 
and write a paper of your own." These colloquies went on in that 
vein for three years. My debt to Canon Streeter remains to this day 
a major obligation which can never be repaid. The academic rela 
tionship matured into a lasting friendship. His scholarly standards 
were high, and he was one of the best New Testament critics of his 
day. But he was also a warm hearted and shyly affectionate human 
being, with a sympathetic interest in all sorts and conditions of re 
ligion, and I was never made aware of any national or ecclesiastical 
gulf between us. We were in close and constant touch with each 
other, until the day of his tragic death on an airplane flight over 
the Alps. 

The Oxford curriculum, in so far as there was any such fabric, 
looking to the Final Examination in the Honour School of The 
ology, coining as a single test at the end of the three years, was con 
cerned wholly with subject matter, and not with professional ways 
and means. Not only so, but, beginning with the Song of Deborah, 
it concluded with the Council of Chalcedon. The work was mainly 
Biblical and historical My window in Queen's College looked out 
over a lane to the old church of St. Peter's in the East, Saxon in its 
crypt, and Norman in its entire superstructure. The sight of that 
church, as I lifted my eyes from my books, gave me a sense of the 
continuity and stability of the Christian religion, as it has survived 

2jS Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

the vicissitudes o many centuries. To this day being a Christian 
means to me the consciousness of standing in a living succession of 
unbroken, organic experience, rather than belonging to some hastily 
and mechanically assembled set of ideas or group of persons. Thus, 
in a time of radical change in our political, economic, ethical, and 
theological systems, being a Christian seems to me to be a matter of 
trying to maintain the continuity of the Christian spirit, whatever its 
immediate formulation. I want to keep that interlocked life of our 
religion over the years unbroken and inviolate. 

An American friend had advised me just before I went to Oxford 
to make my personal friends among the English, and not to live a 
clannish life with fellow Americans. I have always been glad of that 
shrewd word, which I took at its face value. I might add that his 
suggestion did much to foster what has become a fixed habit of 
seeking and finding many of my more intimate personal friends out 
side the boundaries of my own profession and the walls of my par 
ticular sectarian sheepfold. My closest friend over those years was a 
young Irishman from Dublin, Charles Bennett, who lived on the 
same stair in Queen's College, and who spent the latter years of his 
life as a Professor of Philosophy at Yale. I used to visit him in his 
home during vacation time, with the result that I became engaged to 
his sister. She was one of the first two or three women to receive a 
degree from Trinity College, Dublin, and had spent much time study 
ing in France and Germany. Her church affiliations were with Anglo- 
Catholicism and have remained such. I have never been allowed to 
proceed on the assumption that Congregationalism is the only divinely 
ordained polity, and the good humored give and take on these matters 
has saved me from too facile provincialism. We were married in Ire 
land a year after I had left Oxford and was launched in my first 
parish. Canon Streeter came over to officiate at the wedding. Mean 
while I had succeeded in satisfying myself and the examiners that an 
education in a small midwestern American college did not disqualify 
me for work in a great and ancient European university. I had entered 
Oxford with many misgivings at this point. 

There followed a year at Yale Divinity School given largely to 
work in philosophy under Professor Bakewell. I occasionally turn 

Willard L. Sperry 239 

the yellow leaves of a thesis on Aristotle's criticism of Plato's doc 
trine of ideas, which earned me a modest M.A. I brought my church 
history on down after Chalcedon in the class room of Williston 
Walker. He was by all odds the best lecturer whom I have ever heard 
in any college or university. I got also a hint of authentic saintliness 
from the lectures of Frank Porter. Academically the year was useful, 
but I had come back to Yale mainly in order to have some point of 
departure into the American ministry. 

The manners of my hereditary American Congregationalism 
seemed to me, as they still seem, rather sloppy and untidy beside 
the ordered dignity of Anglicanism as I had known it in Oxford. My 
father had been a Congregational minister. But on my mother's side 
of the family there were Episcopal rectors. It seemed to me that I 
might be more at home in the Episcopal ministry. I therefore stated 
my case and my dilemma to the Reverend James De Wolfe Perry, 
who was then rector of a New Haven parish. He entirely agreed that 
I belonged in the Episcopal ministry, and advised me to explore ways 
and means of entering it with Dean Hodges of the Episcopal The 
ological School in Cambridge, who was preaching at Yale the next 
Sunday. I did so. The Dean put me on the mat as to my position on 
the Virgin Birth, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and the like. I re 
layed to him rny general opinions rather than convictions on such 
matters as I had formed them under Streeter's tutelage. The Dean 
shook his head and advised me not to apply for Episcopal ordination. 
I think he felt, not without warrant, that he did not know what he 
might be letting the Episcopal Church in for, in the case of an un 
known Congregational maverick tainted with modernist heresies 
from England. That settled the matter. Over all the intervening years 
I have met Episcopalians who have said to me, "You ought to be in 
the Church." Culturally I agree, but I have always replied, "That 
matter was settled by yourselves, adversely, some thirty or forty years 

During the year at Yale, having been rebuffed by the Episcopalians, 
I applied to the New Haven Association of Congregational Ministers 
for a license to preach. I had to appear before this group and make a 
brief statement of faith. Matters of faith were then, as they still are, 

240 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

matters also of conscience. I presented a brief statement of my con 
victions and belief, which cost me much travail of soul to formulate, 
and I then ended with the historic words, "Here I stand, God help 
me, I can do no other." That quotation was greeted with a howl of 
laughter from the assembled company of ecclesiastical thugs. If they 
had taken a snake whip and struck me across the face, they could 
not have hurt me more. The pain of that cruel laughter still lingers 
in my mind and heart as a wound which has never healed. In my 
own experience it was my taste of the brutality of organized ecclesi- 
asticism. True, at this distance I can see the discrepancy between 
the Diet of Worms and my appearance before the New Haven As 
sociation. But the heartless reaction of that gang of theological ruffians 
gives a clue as to why some sensitive and conscientious young men 
do not enter the ministry today. 

In distress as to whether I was fit for ordination into any Christian 
ministry I went to Dr. Newman Smythe who was at the time min 
ister of Centre Church on the New Haven Green. I laid my problem 
before him. My initial concern for religion had grown out of my 
brooding over the death of my friend, and then later the untimely 
death of my father. The mystery of human life and the meaning of 
eternal life were much to the front in my mind. Such questions as 
that of the Virgin Birth were incidental, peripheral. Dr. Smythe 
gave me some of the wisest advice I have ever had. He said, in sub 
stance, "Most men enter the ministry with no strong conviction at 
any point. All articles of the faith are equally real to them and none 
very real. You have the immediate disadvantage, but the ultimate 
advantage, of feeling with force the truth of two or three articles of 
our faith. Your task is to stand fast on the rock of the convictions you 
already have, and then to extend the area of that conviction, as men 
building a platform for a lighthouse on a single lonely rock extend 
the base of that platform for their finished work." Reassured by 
those words I went on to enter the ministry of the Congregational 
Church into which I had been born. 

In the autumn of 1908, 1 went to Fall River, Massachusetts, to be 
come associate minister of the First Congregational Church. The 
minister was William Wisner Adams, then in his late seventies. He 

Willard L. Sperry 241 

was a man of great physical and mental vigor. He rose every morning 
about five o'clock, took a cold shower bath, ended his dressing by 
pulling on by their straps a pair of knee length leather boots, and 
settled down to work at his desk by six. He was an avid and omnivo 
rous reader. He kept abreast of most of the more important theological 
literature of the day, which at that time was mainly concerned with 
biblical criticism. Much of it went beyond his own position, and the 
margins of his books were cluttered with his single devastating com 
ment, "Bah!" However, he knew what was going on. From his 
watchtower on the walls of his church he looked out over the confused 
theological scene, and reported back to his parish that, although 
there were many foes in the field, the faith was still intact. 

I learned much from him. He had a precise mind, and on Monday 
mornings, after I had preached on the previous day, he would seat 
me in a chair, surrounded at his study desk by a battery of books he 
had assembled for the occasion, and commenting direcdy on some 
misstatement of fact which I had made, would say, "Never let me 
hear you say that again!" He habitually preached over the heads of 
his congregation and told me that he would be ashamed not to do so. 
They, in turn, felt honored at the compliment he paid them, though 
often they had no idea what he was talking about. 

I owe to Dr. Adams a moment of insight into the nature of religion, 
which was, again, little short of a kind of conversion in maturity. My 
generation of theological students had been much under the spell 
of Tolstoi. His uncompromising ethical interpretation of Christianity 
set before us an absolute ideal which was a challenge to the conven 
tional and easygoing Christian morals of our Western world. We 
were not yet aware of the theoretical exception which Nietzsche was 
taking to the validity of the Christian ethic. Indeed, the subsequent 
discovery that there were serious persons in our world who questioned 
the validity of that ethic was the one bad theological shock that I 
have ever experienced. Our concern at the time was whether the 
Christian ethic was practicable, and if so, how? Preoccupation with 
this problem ran true to what had been with me a semi-mystical 
devotion to the person of Christ. 

Dr. Adams preached to his people an annual sermon on the latest 

2f2 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

discoveries in astronomy. This sermon usually ran to undue length. 
On a given Monday morning after one of these sermons I ventured to 
ask him what use his sermon was to a congregation absorbed in 
making and selling cotton cloth. He replied with a certain fine 
indifference, "My dear boy, it's no use at all, but it greatly enlarges my 
idea of God." The words came almost as a revelation. In so far as 
I had ever thought of God, it was only as a hazy Veiled Being in the 
background of Christ. But from that day to this the idea of God, 
rather than the ethic of Jesus, has been the center of my religious 
thinking. Nothing seems more important than "greatly enlarged 
ideas of God." I have not given up my initial concern for the ethic 
of the Gospels, but that ethic is now set in the framework of my 
thought of God, and does not stand or fall as an independent system. 
Hence, I have never been able to share what was, some years ago, the 
attempt to isolate and salvage the ethic of Christianity, while letting 
its theology go. 

My most interesting venture in that parish was a Bible class, 
attended every Sunday noon by a group of men who were the leading 
mill treasurers, and bankers of the community. Over a succession of 
years I inducted them into the methods and findings of modern 
biblical scholarship. We began with the Hebrew prophets, passed on 
to the historical books of the Old Testament, came on down to St. 
Paul's Epistles and thus finally to the Gospels and not merely to the 
Gospels, but to the apocalyptic interpretation of the Gospels as found 
in Schweitzer's Quest of the Historical Jesus. They followed along 
with mounting interest, and were loyal to the end. This experience 
persuaded me that, given time and opportunity to do so, it is not 
impossible to interest the laity in such matters. But it cannot be done 
in any single thirty minute sermon. 

We often came up against the sharp contrast between the ideal and 
perhaps unworldly ethic of Jesus and the concrete moral problems of 
everyday life. A prominent mill treasurer in the class agreed that his 
people were poor and underpaid. He said he would give me the help 
of a chartered accountant and turn me loose on the books of his mill. 
If the two of us would discover any way by which he could pay four 
per cent interest in the stock, which he regarded as fair return to the 

Willard L. Sperry 243 

investor, at the same time meeting the mounting competition of the 
Southern mills which were undercutting the whole New England 
textile industry, and find an available balance still standing to his 
credit, he would gladly give that to his employees as increased wages. 
Needless to say, I did not have the wit or courage to accept his offer. 
But that experience prompted a seminar which I now conduct in our 
Divinity School on The Ethics of the Professions and of Business. The 
seminar aims to intimate to preachers-to-be how difficult are the 
concrete moral problems which men face in doing the work of the 
modern world, and thus to save them from platitudes and glittering 
generalities in the pulpit. 

Dr. Adams died while I was in the parish, and I duly succeeded 
him as minister. Then, in 1914, 1 went to Boston as minister of the 
Central Congregational Church. This parish was one of the problem 
churches of the community. It was in the Back Bay, and I was often 
chided by critical friends for settling down too comfortably in the 
lap of a supposedly rich congregation. Nothing could have been 
farther from the fact. The financial problem of the parish was always 
a serious one. The congregation was made up mainly of professional 
people: doctors, teachers, librarians, secretaries, nurses, and the like. 
We took especial pride in a loyal member with a wooden leg who 
sat on the sidewalk selling pencils hard by the Back Bay Station. The 
student work in those Back Bay parishes was, and still is, a consider 
able part of their opportunity and mission. One way and another a 
good many men from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
turned up at our services or student clubs. I may have tried to make 
a virtue out of my necessity, but preferred working in a downtown 
church to life in a suburban parish, where a carpet slipper mentality 
is apt to assert itself. I had eight good years at Central Church. 

Six months after my arrival there the First World War broke out 
in Europe. I was still living in the afterglow of my Tolstoian period, 
and once the war was on in Europe, though before we entered it, 
hazarded some account of Tolstoi's doctrine of non-resistance. The 
people in the pews did not understand it. However, the chairman of 
the parish committee said, "I don't agree with you, but we don't want 
a man in this pulpit who changes his convictions merely because the 

244 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

times have changed." That generous vote of confidence in the liberty 
of prophesying, meant much to me then, as it still does in retrospect. 
I do not know that I was ever fully committed to the doctrine of 
non-resistance; I was rather exploring it. When the time for decision 
came I found myself unable to part company with youth going off to 
battle and tried to do what I could for them. But I have never been 
at ease, through two world wars, at the moral dilemmas in which 
war involves us, and have always been aware of the tensions of a 
permanently uneasy conscience over the whole problem of militarism 
and pacifism. It is, theoretically, easy enough to live in one of these 
worlds at a time; it is not easy to try to live in both worlds at the 
same time without suspecting oneself of cowardice or compro 

While I was in the Boston parish Dr. Albert Parker Fitch resigned 
the presidency of Andover Theological Seminary, which had moved 
to Cambridge in 1908. The Trustees of the Seminary came to me 
and asked me would I be willing to come out to Cambridge on two or 
three afternoons a week to give instruction in homiletics. The invita 
tion was attractive and I accepted. 

Shortly after my acceptance three gentlemen waited on me at my 
home, explaining that they were the Visitors of Andover Theological 
Seminary, and had come to take my subscription to the Andover 
Creed. This historic instrument was and in history still is an 
implacable transcript of the most pitiless Calvinism. I knew there was 
such a document, but had never studied it. As they read its para 
graphs, I was dismayed to discover to what sentiments and purposes 
I had committed myself. They finally asked me did I believe all this. 
I said, "If, in reading me that creed, you mean do I think I stand 
in the historic succession of orthodox New England ministers the 
answer is, c Yes.' If you mean, do I believe those particular propositions 
the answer is, 'No.' As far as I know my own mind I dissent from 
practically every one of them." They replied that this was precisely 
what they meant and was entirely satisfactory. On this basis I became 
a lecturer at Andover. That seminary was now living cheek by jowl 
with Harvard and in academic affiliation with the institution from 
which it had fled a century before. This move back from Andover to 

Willard L. Sperry 245 

Harvard had prompted the wry remark, "Jonah returns to the belly 
of the whale." 

The two schools were in 1922 eventually brought into a "closer 
affiliation," with a united faculty and a single student body. At the 
time this closer affiliation was proposed President Lawrence Lowell 
sent for me and asked me to become Dean of the joint faculty. I told 
him I thought this was rather a bad joke. The faculty had as its 
members a number of older men, many of whom were scholars of 
national and international reputation. I should be not merely the 
youngest member of the group, but from a scholarly standpoint the 
most illiterate. I said that I had always thought that had I gone on 
with theological studies after my years at Oxford and Yale I might 
have done a little something with scholarship, but that I had been 
fifteen years in the parish ministry, occupied with unacademic 
matters, and that, whatever qualifications for scholarship I might 
once have had, my tools were now rusty and dull and it was too late 
to sharpen them up. Mr. Lowell asked me if I knew a scholar when 
I saw one. I replied, "Oh yes, I know a scholar when I see one." He 
said, "That's all a Dean has to know." On this basis I came to Harvard 
in 1922 as Dean of the affiliated schools, and there on this same basis 
I have been for thirty years. Our closer affiliation was dissolved by 
the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in 1926, as the result of 
action brought by the Andover Visitors, but Mr. Lowell simply told 
me to carry on as Dean of Harvard Divinity School. Ten years later 
I became, also, Chairman of the Board of Preachers to the University, 
i.e. } minister of the "college chapel." 

I had been reluctant to leave the parish ministry, and over the past 
twenty years have welcomed such opportunities for preaching and 
pastoral work as the University Church has offered. The American 
college chapel, in our privately endowed universities having no single 
denominational tie, is a unique phenomenon, unmatched as far as I 
know elsewhere in the Western world. It is a House of the Interpreter 
where preachers and students from many denominations learn that 
there are in our world sheep of folds other than their own. It is, to 
this extent, an unofficial but nonetheless effective laboratory in which 
to work out experiments in church unity. 

2^6 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

There is abroad a suggestion that a minister of religion is a cabin'd, 
cribb'd, confined person, shackled by creeds and dogmas, but that a 
college professor is as free as the winds of heaven. I have not found 
this so. The issue is not as simple as that; it is the generic problem of 
the relation of the single individual to an organized society, in short, 
the problem of all institutionalism. I can only say that thirty years in 
a university have not made me think worse of churches. A minister 
in the pulpit who speaks the truth in love, as he sees it, is about as free 
in our America as any man can be who has accepted life in an 
institution. It is loveless truth telling in American pulpits that gets 
ministers into trouble, or else the resentment of a people (who are 
theoretically the minister's first loyalty) at the fact that their minister 
leaves them sitting at home evening after evening while he is off 
with some siren at a political or economic night club. In short, I am 
still a believer in our churches, and have had no sense of relief in 
exchanging a parish for an academic post. I might add that when I 
came to Harvard I had a single line from Alexander Meiklejohn, who 
wrote, "Another damned fool who has left a perfectly good job and 
gone into an office!" 

My decision to come to Harvard was adversely commented on by 
some of my more ecclesiastical friends. They said that a non-denom 
inational divinity school was a contradiction in terms. Harvard 
Divinity School is, by its constitution of 1816, a non-denominational, 
non-sectarian school of theology. For the first fifty years of its history 
it had been, as far as its faculty was concerned, mainly a matter of 
Greater Boston Unitarianism. In the i88os President Eliot courage 
ously implemented the constitution by beginning to invite to the 
faculty members of other denominations. That policy has been pro 
gressively developed for the past seventy years, so that on the faculty 
in 1950, we have not merely the original Unitarian group, but also 
Congregational, Methodist, Anglican, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, 
Quaker, and Jewish members. The same is true of the student body, 
which regularly includes some twenty to twenty-five different 
denominations. These men live together in perfect amity. Over all 
these years we have had mutual respect as between any two antitheti 
cal positions ranging all the way from extreme Fundamentalism at 

Willard L. Sperry 247 

the right to unequivocal humanism at the left. The School is, I 
suppose, culturally liberal, whatever that word means, but its liberal 
ism is undogmatic. We have not been agitated or divided by contro 
versy, either on the faculty or in the student body. I know of no other 
similarly constituted school, or no academic faculty where the total 
"sense of the meeting" to use the Quaker phrase has maintained 
such unity. This is true in the fields of politics and economics, as in 
the field of systematic theology. My own life in the School has been 
happy, and there are no sores or scars left by the memory of ungen 
erous controversy. I like to think that to this extent our School may 
be contributing, and will continue to contribute, its modest achieve 
ments to what is, in the broadest sense of the word, the ecumenical 
movement. The moral desire for more and better understanding of 
the commonalties of our religious life, is one of the dominant tempers 
of our time. It is my belief that the non-denominational school of 
theology has, today, because of the changing concerns of the time, a 
new and unlimited opportunity to serve the total religion of our 
land. Such a school is far from having supplanted the strictly de- a 
nominational school, but like the college chapel, it is doing a pioneer 
ing job. 

I have never had any quarrels with the chores of a dean's office. The 
fact that I have always been able to make my peace with them, I 
attribute in part to a Puritan heritage from my home and my consent 
to the ideal of duty as the "stern daughter of the Voice of God." But 
this hereditary habit has been much fortified by the witness of two 
distinguished men as to their own work. Canon Sanday of Oxford 
used to say that "three-quarters of all the honest intellectual work 
of the world is pure, unrelieved drudgery"; and Charles Eliot has 
been quoted as adding that nine-tenths of his work as President of 
Harvard was honest drudgery. This does not mean that such drudgery 
is meaningless. Indeed, it is my own conviction that such inspiration 
and first hand insights as most of us get, lie on the far side of much 
work which at the moment may seem unrewarding drudgery. 

Chapter V of Newman's Apologia Pro Vita Sua, 1 headed "Position 

1 Cardinal Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, E. P. Dutton & Company, New York, 

248 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

of my Mind since 1845," the date of his entry into the Church of 
Rome, begins with the statement, "From the time that I became a 
Catholic, of course I have no further history o my religious opinions 
to narrate." We know what he meant and why he said it; neverthe 
less this has always seemed to me one of the most melancholy bits of 
religious autobiography on record. However, when I consult the 
history of my own religious opinions since I took my present post, I 
find little that is novel. 

I am somewhat reassured when I remember that William James 
used to say that few men have any fresh ideas after they are twenty- 
five years old. The direction of life is fairly well determined by that 
time, and most of us spend our more mature years trying to make 
good in achieved fact the ideas and ideals of youth. 

My own inner history has been in more recent years a thing of 
contradictions. I have tried, conscientiously, to extend the circle of 
my religious acquaintances in ecumenical and interfaith groups, 
serving for instance as chairman of one of the four commissions 
which did the preparatory work for the Edinburgh Conference on 
Faith and Order, and working with more than one of the pioneer 
groups which are trying to create greater comity between Catholic, 
Protestant, and Jew. The ecumenical movement, as one saw it in 
Europe, taught all Americans how provincial their indigenous Protes 
tantism is, and how small a body like my own Congregationalism 
bulks in the totality of Christians. Interests of this sort are a whole 
some discipline in a proper humility and charity of mind. 

But I have never had any interest in what might be called theologi 
cal eclecticism picking out the best in all faiths and assembling 
these fragments as a kind of a mosaic faith. Coleridge says some 
where that efforts of this .sort are as if a painter trying to portray the 
face of Helen of Troy should take the forehead of one woman, the 
eyes of another, the nose of a third, and the lips of a fourth. Religions 
are grown, not mechanically assembled. Not only so, but each of us 
probably makes his best contribution to the total cause of religion by 
maturing the insights and leads of his own tradition. As one cannot 
in midlife learn to eat rice with chopsticks, so one cannot success 
fully affect a religious culture that is wholly alien to him. He may use 

Willard L. Sperry 24$ 

the intimations o such a culture as a valid criticism of certain over- 
emphases or defects in his own tradition, and apply such criticism to 
self-correction, but this should be done within what is still his 
heritage and his mental second nature. 

So, also with one's conception of the church and its mission in the 
world. The idea of church unity based on some lowest common 
denominator of all the faiths involved is an uninspiring one, for 
religion is a maximizing rather than a minimizing affair. Hence, for 
most men, the futility of shopping around from one denomination 
to another for a church which precisely fits his measure. Father 
Tyrrell says that ecclesiastical vagrancy of this sort is much like 
trying to find the ideal house. The house that we now live in has 
poor plumbing, so we move out into another house, only to find that 
the roof leaks. All we do, on most such occasions, is to exchange one 
type of institutional problem for another. I have been at home in the 
church of my fathers, and despite my early attempt to go into another 
church, have been content to stay where I was born and where I 
have lived. This does not imply any denominational pride or com 
placency. But I have always advised divinity students to stay in the 
churches to which, individually, they belong, unless as a matter of 
naked conscience the position is intolerable. 

In matters of this sort sincerity is, of course, of the major impor 
tance. But one must not identify minor irritation at this or that phase 
of the faith and practice of a church with the imperatives of conscience. 
The chronic ecclesiastical nay-sayer is not necessarily the historic and 
authentic conscientious objector. The great religious reformers have 
never left their churches- at a first moment of their holy impatience. 
They have stayed as long as they could and exhausted the meaning 
of their tradition before parting from it. That time may come to any 
man, but it should come later rather than sooner in his history. 

Hence it has been a fortunate thing for me, given this concern for 
the continuity of one's religious life, that the past thirty years of my 
life have been lived in the oldest of our American universities, where 
there is a strong feeling for the three uninterrupted centuries of our 
life on this soil. Not only so, but in a Divinity School which shares 
the tempers of its University and which, as a matter of theological 

250 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

disciplines, approaches religion mainly by the historical method, at 
the cost of what may be more contemporary approaches. 

Any one who has been in the ministry for forty years has seen 
ecclesiastical attempts to reanimate moribund churches by means of 
one or another of the many stresses which have been proposed. The 
Layman's Movement, the Religious Education Movement, the 
religious drama, the enriching of worship, and more latterly the 
psychological reinterpretation of pastoral care. All these are important, 
some more so than others, but no one of them, if it is a matter of 
chafing the extremities of the institution, will effectively reanimate it, 
if its mind is going and its heart failing. 

Merely keeping an institution alive, when the idea which originally 
occasioned it no longer inspires it, is mere ecclesiasticism, and mere 
ecclesiasticism is once removed from the vital concerns of religion 
itself. The case for churches will be won or lost on prior and more 
central grounds, man's faith in God, the continuing validity of the 
whole Jewish-Christian ethic, the value of the single individual as 
against the aggression of mass man. These concerns antedate, and 
will probably outdate, every temporary shot in the arm given to 
American churches by ingenious practitioners. 

I have no fears for the future of the Christian religion. It is too true 
ever to be permanently outmoded. The forms of our faith and the 
patterns of our church life may change with changing times. No 
single doctrinal system or particular polity has any advance assurance 
of immortality in history. It is one of my pet beliefs that theology 
ought to be always in process of becoming heretical, while religion is 
and ought always to be orthodox. I am more concerned for the 
orthodoxy of religion, i.e., the basic constancy of its experiences, than 
for theological orthodoxy. Most of my preaching and writing can 
probably be appraised in those terms, though I have not been on 
every occasion conscious of that motive. 

I have enjoyed preaching and have worked hard at it. But the 
sermon which was once the end all and be all of my professional life 
no longer holds that prominent place. I thought at first that I should 
live to preach; today I live and preach. The sermon is a byproduct of 
other concerns. It takes much less time in preparation than once it 

Willard L. Sperry 257 

did; it is in any given instance the formulation of convictions that 
have grown up without immediate reference to the pulpit, but rather 
to life itself and as a whole. The only technical homiletical discipline 
to which I have consciously and conscientiously stuck is the endeavor 
to learn how to handle words. They are so elusive and deceptive. They 
are such an imperfect medium for self-expression and are so often 
misinterpreted. But one of my secret and imperfectly realized ideals is 
that, somehow, I might be able to make words obey, to make them 
come to heel, as Milton and Wordsworth have done in their sonnets. 
The problem there is, of course, not that of the words themselves, but 
of the ideas behind the words. But I still maintain that a preacher in a 
pulpit ought to be able to handle the English language with decent 

As to our religious situation in general. I remain stubbornly liberal. 
I can see why the proponents of the new theology say that our 
American Protestantism has been secularized beyond the point of 
safety. The wise man of Israel said centuries ago, "Thy heart hath 
gone too far into this world." Hence the constant need to recover 
man's awareness of the Wholly Other, of which I have spoken. But 
I cannot understand the cult of irrationality which is much the fashion 
of the times, or share in the disparagement of the serious work of the 
modern world, even though the name of God is not always spoken 
in that connection. Newman once said that nothing is easier than to 
use the name of God and mean nothing by it. I stand by the prophetic 
and theocratic interpretation of life and society. I remain unhypno- 
tized by the reckless indictments being meted out to our world, 
though admitting to the full the tragic occasion for much of the 
criticism of that world, and apprehension as to its future. Our 
religious task is to try to persuade serious men and women doing the 
creative and productive work of our time to follow the lead of their 
own interests to the point where they can see God, not to divorce 
from them their tasks and urge upon them an other-worldliness which 
shall lack all content for them. I know quite well that this is only a 
religious half-truth, but it is a half-truth which needs today affirma 
tion and interpretation. 


Never in all my life had I asked myself: Just what am I, and how 
did I happen to become whatever it is? In fact these questions had 
never suggested themselves to me. And, to tell the complete truth, 
the prospect of asking them now, in the period of retirement from 
much of active life, and of searching, with somewhat painful self- 
consciousness, for the answers was somewhat repellent to me. 

But second thought suggested that there must be some reason for 
the invitation to contribute to this volume. Obviously some one 
must have seen, or at least thought that he had seen, in me and in 
my life and work, something which, correctly or not, warranted my 
inclusion in this group, with fair expectation that the story of my 
spiritual unfolding might convey some message worthy of the 
sympathetic consideration of high-minded and aspiring men and 
women. And, so I told myself, so long as this possibility existed, and 
also so long as there was a potential service to be performed, even 
though the task had little appeal for me, I had no right to refuse. 

So here I am, with the story about myself which I have dug up 
from the dustheap of memory; but, I must add in all honesty, not a 
little doubtful, confused, and embarrassed. For, as I survey my life, 
and especially the early and supposedly formative years thereof, it 
seems to me that I had very little conscious preparation for, and 
that, rather, I just drifted into, whatever I have done and whatever 
I have become. I feel myself not a little like Topsy, who was never 
born, but just grew up. 

254 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

My parents were immigrants from Western Germany. Each had 
come to this country while young. My mother had come to relatives. 
My father had had to make his way unaided from the beginning. I 
was the second of three children. My sister and I were, I am sure, 
the only Jewish children ever born in the tiny village of St. Francis- 
ville, Illinois, on the bank of the Wabash River. When I was two 
years old my parents moved to Vincennes, Indiana, just ten miles 
from my birthplace. 

Of course I have only the vaguest recollections of those childhood 
years. But I do remember that already then Vincennes had a small 
Jewish congregation, ministered to by a rabbi, and that one of these 
rabbis, Leon Strauss, who must have served this congregation for 
approximately two years, lived in my parents' home. I see him still 
in reverent memory, a tall man, with thin, gray hair, long beard, 
large spectacles, and a kindly gleam in his eye. He must have taken 
a fancy to me, for, when I was four years old, he undertook to teach 
me to read both English and Hebrew. Apparently he succeeded 
fairly well; for when I was five years old, I was deemed ready to 
enter public school. 

I could read English so fluently that I was immediately placed in 
the second grade. But it was a not altogether happy situation; for 
when they put a pen in my hand and told me to write, I had not 
the slightest idea what the instrument was for or even what writing 
was. Eventually, however, I did learn to write. And I never forgot 
how to read Hebrew. 

When I was six years old my parents moved to a small town in 
Western Kansas, where we remained for slightly more than a year. 
It seems to me, as I look back, that I had relatively little companion 
ship of other children at that time or in the childhood years which 
followed. I liked playmates and always got along well with them. In 
fact, I have always found pleasure in friendly companionship and 
much satisfaction in doing a helpful act whenever I could. But I 
suppose that I was something of an introvert, especially in my boy 
hood. I seemed to love books more than people; and I read vora 

In Garden City, Kansas, where there was no public library, and 

Julian Morgenstern 255 

where, not at all surprisingly, the family collection of books was 
exceedingly scanty, I had no wide choice in my reading. In conse 
quence I read over and over again a small Bible History, as it was 
called, which in some unknown manner had found its way into our 
family possession. Whether that stimulated in me a love of the Bible 
and an interest in history, I cannot say; it may have. To some extent 
I must have inherited my lifelong love of history from my father. I 
remember that when I was only nine years old he bought for me 
two volumes, one a history of Greece and the other a history of Rome, 
both of which I still possess, and which, as a boy, I read repeatedly. 

Of course in that little Kansas town there were at that time not 
enough Jewish families to constitute a congregation. During our 
thirteen months sojourn there my formal religious education was 
nil. Both my parents were reverent persons, who attended religious 
services whenever they could and invariably took their three children 
with them on those occasions. But in far Western Kansas there were 
no Jewish religious services anywhere in those days. And in our 
home, outside of fasting upon the Day of Atonement, eating Matzot 
during the week of Passover, and kindling the Hanukkah lights at 
that festival (upon which occasion it was always my privilege to 
recite the blessings because of my ability to read Hebrew), we 
observed no religious ceremonies whatever. At the Passover im 
mediately preceding my ordination as rabbi I attended my first Seder 
service, at the home of a kind and understanding member of the 
Faculty of the Hebrew Union College, who apparently had compas 
sion upon my Jewish benightedness. 

I remember that upon that occasion I thought the Seder a quaint 
and interesting ceremony, but also that I felt toward it more as a 
spectator than as a participant. Nor was I alone in this among my 
classmates at the College, although I was probably extreme among 
them in this respect. Others of them came also from so-called Ameri 
can Reform Jewish homes, in which at that time Jewish ceremonial 
ism was cultivated but little, and was even looked upon somewhat 
askance as a survival from a rather remote and now completely out 
grown age. I remember, too, that, when we were in the third year 
of our eight years course of study at the College, my class as a unit 

256 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

suddenly became poignantly aware of its backwardness in Jewish 
ceremonial matters and so petitioned the Faculty to inaugurate for 
it a course in Jewish ceremonials. The Faculty, quite startled, I am 
sure, approved the suggestion heartily. One of the professors under 
took to teach us the fundamentals of traditional Jewish religious 
practice. I fear that I was anything but an apt pupil. At the end of 
the year, when he asked me what the BirJ^at Haminim (prayer for 
the extirpation of apostasy) was, I replied, and with complete and 
self -satisfied assurance and joy in the thought that I had really learned 
something about Jewish ceremonies, that it was grace after meals. 

I have never overcome satisfactorily this initial lack of knowledge 
and understanding of our ancient and honored ritual and ceremonial 
institutions. Still today I find myself distinctly ill at ease in an 
intensely Jewish ceremonial environment, and still to a considerable 
extent playing the role of spectator rather than of participant. But I 
feel a certain gratification in having been then one of a group which 
was instrumental in inaugurating a new course of study in the 
Hebrew Union College curriculum, a course which is still continued, 
and, I am sure, much more effectively and for students of background 
like mine with much more profit than was the case with that initial 
attempt. Moreover, this experience made me realize that the then 
curriculum of the College was not entirely adequate for the prepara 
tion for the rabbinate of American-born boys who sprang from 
Reform backgrounds. 

But I am running ahead of my story. When I was seven years old 
my parents moved to Cincinnati, where my mother had close family 
connections. There my formal Jewish religious instruction began. I 
entered a Reform Sunday school, as we called it then, attended this 
for five years, and was confirmed at the traditional age of thirteen. 
As a part of the confirmation ritual I read from the Torah, a privilege 
which I valued highly. 

Then, at thirteen years, I entered, or, rather, I drifted, into the 
Hebrew Union College. I had no proper understanding of the rabbi 
nate nor had I ever expressed a desire to become a rabbi. In fact, so 
far as I can remember, I had never even thought that I might become 
a rabbi. But for that matter, I had given no thought at all to ever 

Julian Morgenstern 257 

becoming anything, for I was too absorbed in school work, reading, 
and play. The one thing, however, which I had demonstrated clearly, 
at least to the satisfaction, or lack of satisfaction, of my parents, was 
that I was in no way qualified for a business career. And so my father 
reasoned that it would be timely for me to enter the Hebrew Union 
College, because students were then admitted at the unripe age of 
thirteen. Not at all improbably, my ability to read Hebrew fluently 
played some part in this decision. I was under no compulsion to 
remain, should I ever wish to leave, or should I develop a desire to 
follow some other profession. And so I became a student of the 
Hebrew Union College, and there I continued for the normal eight 
years, until my graduation and ordination. But during all those years 
I had no consciousness whatever of a divine call. I fear that I was 
still drifting and that I remained there chiefly because it was the easiest 
and simplest thing to do. On the other hand, never once did it occur 
to me that I might not be qualified for the rabbinate, or that I might 
prefer some other profession or occupation. 

I cannot say that I enjoyed my studies at the Hebrew Union 
College, or that I was a particularly apt pupil I cannot say even that 
I found these studies interesting. The then faculty of the College 
were all estimable, kindly gentlemen, but, with the exception of Dr. 
Isaac M. Wise, its founder and first president, and the saintly, be 
loved Dr. Moses Mielziner, not one impressed me as a stimulating 
personality or even as a good teacher. My contacts with Dr. Wise, 
then a man approaching eighty, were too remote to permit me to 
come under his intimate, personal influence; and my foundation of 
Jewish knowledge was too inadequate to benefit from advanced work 
in Talmud under Dr. Mielziner and to acquire for myself any of the 
stimulation and inspiration which these two noble souls undoubtedly 
imparted to many others. I became a rabbi at the age of twenty-one 
with, I am quite sure, the most minimal and abysmal Jewish knowl 
edge of any rabbi ever ordained through all Judaism's history. 
Whether that was a distinction or not, I leave it to my readers to 
determine. I was happy when the end came to this period of study, 
or rather of attendance at classes, an attendance which, I must 
confess, was not a little irregular; for in those days I was a past 

258 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

master at cutting classes and understood all, and even invented some, 
of the tricks of studenthood. This knowledge has stood me in good 
stead not infrequently in subsequent years. I had begun even then to 
sense the woeful inadequacy of the preparation which the College 
was giving me for my subsequent career and to become impatient 
and even somewhat resentful of this condition. 

Yet I may not say that those were unhappy years. Quite the 
contrary. My relations with my classmates and all my fellow students 
were pleasant and satisfying in every way. I was one, though by no 
means the only one, of the participants in the endless succession of 
pranks which we played upon each other and upon our teachers, 
especially the latter. I always had a merry disposition and an appre 
ciation of humor. I remember that in my junior year at high school, 
the period of which ran concurrently with my first three years at 
the College, when, for some strange reason, I was appointed to the 
board of editors of the school paper, I asked to be put in charge of the 
department of wit and humor. I confess humbly that under my 
direction the department manifested little humor and even less wit. 
But it was an enticing aspiration. 

I must have possessed also some capacity of leadership among 
fellow students. It evolved slowly, for I was always the youngest in 
my class, not only at the Hebrew Union College but also in high 
school and university. In my junior year at the University of Cincin 
nati I was elected treasurer of my class and ii?. my senior year its 
president; and during both years I was likewise president of the 
Students' Athletic Association of the University. I even played guard 
in one football game, against the University of Kentucky, on Thanks 
giving Day in my year of graduate study, and emerged therefrom 
with a badly sprained knee. I might add that we lost the game. In the 
University, too, my relations with all my fellow students were of the 
happiest, and, even though I was a Jew, and therefore not a member 
of any fraternity, I enjoyed intimate friendship with many members 
of both fraternities and sororities. My years at the University of 
Cincinnati, four of undergraduate and one of graduate study, the latter 
coincident with my senior year at the Hebrew Union College, were 
happy in every way. 

Julian Morgenstern 259 

And there, at the University of Cincinnati, I came under the in 
fluence of two professors, both of whom were exceedingly stimulat 
ing, and one truly inspiring. One, Edgar Miles Brown, gave direc 
tion to my love for English literature and also the first intimations of 
what true, creative scholarship meant. The other, P. V. N. Myers, the 
saintly and scholarly historian, revealed to me, as he did to many 
others, the full meaning of an ethical interpretation of history as a 
guide for individual, national, international, and interdenominational 
relations and aspirations. The spirit, teaching, and example of both 
men have abided with me through all my years. 

At last I was graduated from both University and College, from 
neither institution with the slightest distinction as a student. I was 
now an ordained rabbi, but one with no life-program whatever. But 
that fact did not disturb me in the least. Indeed nothing seems to 
have then disturbed me much. It had been planned in the family 
councils that after graduation I should go to Germany, ostensibly to 
study. But to study what, and for how long a period, and for what 
particular purpose, no one, and least of all I, had the slightest idea. My 
father, the only member of his family in America, was eager that his 
sisters and their children, back in Germany, should get to know at 
least one member of his family. I was plainly the one most available 
for this role. So, shortly after ordination off to Germany I went, to 
meet my father's family, and incidentally to study something. 

In Germany I quickly established loving relations with all my 
many kinsmen of three generations. I spent those first summer 
months perfecting my knowledge of German. And to my great good 
fortune and lasting blessing early in September, 1902, I enjoyed a 
three day visit in Heidelberg with Judah Leon Magnes. I had known 
him fairly well as a student at the Hebrew Union College. There he 
had been among his fellow students an outstanding and greatly 
beloved leader in everything fine and good. He had graduated two 
years before me. He was now completing his studies for his Doc 
torate of Philosophy. Learning that I was in Germany, he invited 
me to visit him. He met me at the railroad station, took me to his 
room, and immediately asked what I planned to study. I answered 
frankly that I had not the slightest idea. I knew only that I would 

260 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

not study philosophy. A peculiarly inefficient and to me exceedingly 
repellent professor of philosophy at the University of Cincinnati had 
created in me an aversion to philosophy, which has persisted to this 
day. Magnes suggested that I study Semitic languages; and why 
not? For me Semitic languages had at that time quite as much appeal 
as any other scholarly discipline. So Magnes loaned me his Arabic 
grammar, sat down with me at once and gave me my first lesson. 
Thus it is that I owe it to Magnes that I became a student of Semitics, 
and perhaps a student at all. 

That experience did even more for me. For the next two months, I 
worked conscientiously at the Arabic and with such gratifying results 
that when regular classes at the University began I found myself 
well prepared. And, of even greater significance, through this disci 
pline I had learned the technique of independent study and the 
virtues of system and thoroughness. Indirectly this, too, I owe to 
Magnes. For all this I cherish his memory gratefully. 

My two years as a student in Germany, the first in Berlin and the 
second in Heidelberg, were fruitful in every way. Even in this strange 
environment I was able to establish pleasant and cooperative rela 
tions with fellow students, both Jewish and non-Jewish. I had, 
undoubtedly because of earlier training in school and upon the play 
ground, no Jewishly self-conscious inhibitions, and all my fellow 
students accepted me readily for what I was and felt myself to be, an 
American student of positively Jewish religious convictions and 
affiliations. In Heidelberg I even enjoyed the unusual and gratifying 
experience of playing a major role in the public presentation of a 
German drama by students of the University, all of whom except 
myself were German and non-Jewish. 

In my professors at both universities and in my personal relations 
with them I was exceedingly fortunate. To two in particular at Berlin, 
Delitzsch and Meissner, I came very close, so close, in fact, that, at 
the end of my second semester With him, Delitzsch invited me to 
accompany him to London during the summer to copy Assyrian 
inscriptions in the British Museum. Providentially, as I see it now, 
I could not avail myself of this flattering invitation. For several 
reasons chiefly perhaps that I had become engaged to be married 

Julian Morgenstern 261 

shortly before my ordination as rabbi and that my betrothed had 
borne with me with exceeding patience and generosity, and, sec 
ondarily, that I had no right to tax my beloved parents' none too 
extensive resources unduly it had become clear to me that I ought 
to and could remain in Germany only one more year; therefore, if 
I was to achieve the Doctorate of Philosophy in Semitics in the 
brief span of two years, I would have to concentrate intensively, and 
also begin systematic work upon a dissertation during that very 
summer. So, reluctantly, I declined the invitation. Had I accepted, I 
would probably be today some conventional worker in the vast and 
enchanting field of Assyriology. Certainly my life would have been 
altogether different from what it has been. Plainly, I was still drifting, 
though not quite so haphazardly as previously. 

That year in Berlin was immensely beneficial in many ways. I was 
fascinated by my field of study. I learned quickly and easily to con 
centrate, to study patiently and determinedly, and to find joy therein. 
But I still could work effectively only in fields in which I had a 
positive and active interest and only under teachers who were stimu 
lating and evinced a personal interest and friendship. Immediately 
after arrival in Berlin I enrolled at the Hochschule fuer die Wissen- 
schaft des Judentums, the foremost Liberal rabbinical seminary in 
all Europe at that time. I registered for two courses, hoping that I 
might acquire there, under the instruction of reputedly eminent 
scholars, something of what, I now realized clearly, I had missed in 
my rabbinical preparation at the Hebrew Union College. I attended 
two lectures by each professor. I found both dull and unrewarding. 
Despite eminence as scholars, they were, at least so it seemed to me, 
ineffective teachers. And when I called upon one at his home and 
presented a letter of introduction, he received me coldly, made a few 
conventional remarks, and then intimated very plainly that I was 
staying too long. That terminated my connection with the Hoch 

During those Berlin days I experienced my first, inner, spiritual 
struggle; at least I think it was the first. No doubt largely as the 
result of Semitic studies, particularly in the field of Assyriology, it 
began to dawn upon me with steadily increasing insistence that not 

262 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

all the statements and narratives of the Bible, not even those of the 
Torah, the Pentateuch, could be literally true and objectively his 
toric. Particularly was this the case with the traditions and legends 
about the patriarchs. Actually this was not entirely new to me. I had 
heard vague mutterings about this in my undergraduate days, but 
had given to it no more thought than to other aspects of my studies. 
Now it struck me with insistent force. It left me bewildered, but not 
too greatly distressed. Daily for some weeks I walked to and from 
classes at the university with the question constantly pressing me: 
What is the truth, and what does this mean for the history of Judaism 
and the Jewish people and what for Jewish doctrine and tradition ? I 
even wondered occasionally whether I could function honestly as 
rabbi, with these steadily growing doubts and intimations in mind. 
Gradually, however, confusion was dispelled and doubts vanished. I 
began to perceive the truth, or what I was then and have ever since 
been convinced is the truth, clearly and affirmatively. Once again 
my mind became serene and my faith secure. Principles of study, 
interpretation, and application to religious belief and practice were 
integrated within me and have guided me ever since. Above all else, 
I learned then the important lesson, that science and knowledge in 
the abstract have little meaning and less value until they are linked 
closely with life and become guides and impulses to progress in the 
realm of the human mind and spirit and forces making for richer 
and happier living. 

My year in Heidelberg, that then beautiful and serene city, was 
the delightful climax of my student days. There my relations with all 
my teachers, and particularly with Bezold, and with Becker, who was 
later Minister of Education for Prussia, under whom I did most of 
my work, were unusually intimate and stimulating. I was like a 
close, personal friend in the households of both; and I reacted to 
this influence readily and expansively. My friendship with both men 
continued until their deaths. To each of them I owe very much. 
During this year in Heidelberg my ideas and convictions at last 
began to crystallize. A system of Jewish belief and faith, in positive 
accord with the results of my studies, and a program of Jewish life 
and service were now taking definite form. With increasing eagerness, 

Julian Morgenstern 263 

as the days passed, I looked forward to return home and to an active 
and useful ministry in the rabbinate. At last my studies were com 
pleted; my preparation for what I hoped and prayed might be a 
worthy and useful service to my God, my people, and my f ellowmen, 
was finished. I returned home joyously and to a loving and happy 
family reunion. 

Then followed three years of ministry to the Reform Jewish con 
gregation in Lafayette, Indiana. They, too, were happy years in every 
way. They witnessed my marriage and the birth of my beloved 
daughter, my only child. They were years, too, of devoted service to 
my congregation. I gave to it everything I had, and held nothing 
back. And its members, in turn, without exception, were responsive 
and appreciative. They returned friendship for friendship, and affec 
tion for affection. I found boundless joy and exhilaration in my 
ministry to them. Not once did I ask myself whether I had done 
wisely in becoming a rabbi. I felt now that it was my calling, in the 
most literal sense, that God had indeed summoned me to His service 
and had guided me in my preparation for it, that He had steered me 
somehow in all my drifting, and brought me into the right channel. 
And I prayed, again and again, that I might prove a worthy servant 
unto Him and might bring guidance and blessing to all those to 
whom I was privileged to minister. And before every sermon I would 
utter a silent but very fervent prayer that the message which I was 
about to speak might be the true word of God, and might lodge 
firmly in the minds and hearts of my people. 

I enjoyed the teaching and pastoral aspects of rny ministry thor 
oughly. To get close to my people, to enter intimately into their 
lives, to win their trust and affection, and to admonish them in the 
true way of God, were my constant ambition and satisfaction. In 
this I think that I succeeded to some extent, though of course far 
less than I aspired to. In this service I felt a true sense of consecration. 
The actual preaching, too, I enjoyed in considerable measure. But the 
preparation of the sermon, and especially the determination of the 
theme thereof, were a constant bugbear to me, For the first year and 
a half I laboriously wrote out and memorized every word which I 
uttered publicly. But always I had the disquieting feeling that this 

264 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

was a sad waste, that the returns from the preaching did not com 
pensate for the loss of energy and time. Had I only realized then that 
true preaching was teaching rather than oratory, and that its con 
tent and spirit counted for far more than its manner, I am sure that 
I would have been much happier in this aspect of my service. 

In one other phase thereof I experienced great satisfaction, in my 
relations with the Christian clergy of the city and with the community 
at large. With one Catholic priest I became fairly intimate through 
contacts in communal service. And my Protestant colleagues I came 
to know and gradually to understand well, through membership in 
the local Ministers 7 Association. In those days the term, "Funda 
mentalism," had not yet become current. But I realize now how strong 
was its spirit in that community and especially in that Association. 
I was the first non-Protestant admitted to membership. To me it 
seemed perfectly natural that I should belong to any organization of 
the local clergy. I could not comprehend at first why no Catholic 
priest was a member. But I can see now that my admission was a 
radical, in some respects even a revolutionary, step, and that not a 
few of my fellow members must have regarded it with misgiving and 

And I quickly gave substance to their fears. The Association met 
every Monday morning in the parlors of the First Presbyterian 
Church. I was welcomed cordially at the first meeting which I 
attended, and the welcome found a warm response in my heart. I had 
then been a full year in Lafayette, and some of my colleagues I had 
already come to know personally. At this meeting the program 
committee reported the program for the year. Its chairman, as I 
learned later, was a thorough and sincere Fundamentalist. He stated, 
as a part of his report, that the Committee was eager to have a paper 
on "The Virgin Birth," presented from a purely scientific standpoint. 
There is a certain kind of person who seems to delight to rush in 
where angels fear to tread. The younger he is, the more readily and 
rapidly he rushes. I was then only twenty-four. So I leaned forward 
and whispered to the chairman that I was greatly interested in that 
theme, and had even investigated it somewhat and would gladly 
prepare the paper, if desired. He, in turn, arose and announced, with- 

Julian Morgenstern 265 

out a moment's consideration of my offer, that the rabbi had accepted 
the assignment. Luckily the historic day was still some months off. 
During those months I came to know my colleagues and their 
respective temperaments, and likewise their tempers, better. This 
knowledge came as a disturbing revelation to me, particularly when 
I realized that it represented a fair cross-section of Protestant clerical 
thought of that day. 

I prepared the paper with utmost caution and reserve. I was care 
ful to express no opinions of my own or of any Jewish scholar whatso 
ever. I limited myself strictly to the presentation of views of eminent 
and responsible Protestant scholars. And I carefully informed my 
colleagues of this procedure before beginning to read the paper. But 
my caution and conservatism were of no avail. I could hear a loud 
and ominous silence as I read; and then the storm broke. Interestingly 
enough, I was not its chief victim. As one of the members said in 
his discussion, he could not blame the rabbi. I had said just what 
should have been expected of a rabbi. He blamed the program com 
mittee and most of all its chairman, for assigning this theme to the 
rabbi. And the poor, innocent, befuddled chairman, who had sat 
aghast during the reading, could defend himself and his colleagues 
upon the committee only by pleading that in framing the subject 
they had contemplated and anticipated a thoroughly scientific presen 
tation of how a woman could bear a child and still remain a virgin. 
Whether my Protestant colleagues learned aught from my paper I 
do not know; but I learned much, something from the paper itself, 
but far more from the discussion. 

Yet I can hardly call this an inauspicious beginning of my member 
ship in the Ministers' Association of Lafayette. My colleagues seemed 
to respect the integrity and the spirit of moderation and reverence for 
the religious opinions of others with which I had prepared and 
presented the paper. Our understanding of each other and our mutual 
regard grew steadily and rapidly, to such an extent, in fact, that 
before another year had passed I was, despite my youth and my 
divergent religious views and affiliations, made chairman of a com 
mittee appointed to investigate the conduct of a certain Protestant 
colleague who was suspected of conduct unworthy of a minister. 

266 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

And when, two years later, I left Lafayette to accept a call to the 
faculty of my alma mater, many were the expressions of regret, friend 
ship, and brotherhood from fellow members in the Association. I 
myself had profited in many ways from this fellowship. I had grown 
especially in understanding of and respect for divergent religious doc 
trines and rituals. My spiritual preparation was still in process. 

Up to this moment the thought of becoming a teacher by profes 
sion, and especially a member of the faculty of the Hebrew Union 
College, had never entered my mind. I was happy and content in 
my rabbinic ministry. My utmost aspiration in the field of scholarship 
at that time was perhaps to write something which might in a 
small way justify the hope and faith which my teachers in Germany 
had reposed in me. I think that it must have been the burden of 
finding sermon themes which finally made me impatient and rest 
less. And so when, after three years of a very rewarding ministry 
in Lafayette, I heard that there was a vacancy upon the faculty of the 
College, I wrote to Dr. Kaufmann Kohler, then its distinguished 
president, and made formal application for the post. 

I entered upon this new service with enthusiasm and with the 
firm resolve that, so far as lay within my power, my students should 
get in their preparation for the rabbinate all that which I had missed. 
Actually I should have been filled with misgiving and trepidation, 
for, as I realize now, my preparation for teaching at the College, even 
with two years abroad and such research as I had been able to pursue 
in the midst of rabbinic duties, was far from adequate. Fortunately 
I had learned how to work. Now began a period of intensive study of 
the very fundamentals of the Hebrew language, of the Bible, and of 
early Jewish history, the three fields in which my interest centered, 
and for which such training as I had had fitted me best. Six full years 
elapsed before I ventured to publish anything of scientific import, 
and that only hesitantly and with the warm encouragement of a col 
league upon the faculty. These six years of earnest study of the 
essentials of Judaism were also years of spiritual unfolding. 

Once again, in this new field of service, my relations with all my 
associates, faculty and students of the College, and eventually its 
Board of Governors, were most gratifying. Of the more than four 

Julian Morgenstern 267 

hundred students whom I have taught during my forty-two years 
at the College exactly three hundred and sixty have become rabbis. 
Of these I had the great joy of ordaining two hundred and seventy- 
eight. Many I installed in their pulpits. Thirty I united in wedlock. 
To all my students, and especially in these latter years, I have felt 
myself to be more than a mere teacher, even more than a friend. I 
have felt as a father to them and regarded them in an intimate, spir 
itual sense as my sons; and I know that many, yes, I venture to think, 
most, of them have cherished corresponding sentiments toward me. 
A deep and persistent affection has bound us to each other and has 
enabled me to enter deeply, I believe, into the lives, thoughts, and 
aspirations of many of them. This has been the greatest privilege of 
my teaching and of my administration. 

I think that the students of the College felt that I understood them, 
and so they were drawn to me and I to them. I was the first alumnus 
to become a regular and permanent member of the faculty. When 
I came to the College in that capacity my own student days there 
were only five years behind me. I knew the soul of a student of the 
College, and especially of one American born and educated, and I 
sought earnestly to minister to it. Still today, as through all these 
years, it is my regular and very pleasant duty to umpire the annual 
baseball game between the upper and the lower classes; and never 
once has a decision of mine as umpire been challenged. My students 
have always had faith in me and I in them. 

And I think, too, that I have been able to do for the students of the 
College at least a part of what I had contemplated when I applied for 
appointment to the faculty. Some of the gravest lacks in their prepara 
tion for the rabbinate, which I myself had missed, I have been able 
to fill. Constantly I have sought to make the life of the students of 
the College easier, happier, and richer. I hope and pray that I may 
have succeeded in some measure. If so, I will have achieved one of 
the main purposes of my life. 

I must have been at the College for ten years or more before the 
thought suggested itself that I might aspire to an even larger and 
higher service. The then president of the College, Dr. Kaufmann 
Kohler, an authoritative scholar, particularly in the field of Jewish 

268 Thirteen Americans; Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

theology, was growing old. His retirement, after a long and honor 
able administration, must come at a not too distant day. In the initial 
years of his presidency he had reorganized both faculty and curricu 
lum in useful manner. But my own experience upon the faculty, as 
teacher, as its secretary, and also for eight years as secretary of the 
Central Conference of American Rabbis, had demonstrated to me 
that there was much more to be done in the way of reconstruction 
and expansion. And so the ambition was born within me to become 
the successor of Dr. Kohler, an ambition which, I can say sincerely, 
was motivated primarily by an urge to render to my alma mater the 
maximum service within my power and to develop the latent po 
tentialities which I saw so clearly. In this ambition I was encouraged 
by one member of the faculty to whom I was particularly close. 

During the twenty-six years of my presidency I adhered steadfastly 
to this program. Not all my ambitions for the College have been 
realized, nor have all its potentialities been developed. But I feel that 
something has been achieved, and on the whole I am content. The 
service of the College has been expanded in range and, I trust, also 
in quality and authority. Above all else, at least in my eyes, it has 
become a recognized center of creative Jewish scholarship, a service 
of paramount importance today, when almost all the great centers of 
Jewish scholarship of the Old World have been ruthlessly destroyed. 
In this aspect of its expanded service I think that I experience my 
greatest satisfaction. 

Early in my teaching years the monumental work of the eminent 
anthropologist, Sir James G. Frazer, The Golden Bough, came into 
my hands and fascinated me. This fascination was heightened im 
measurably by an evening spent with this modest, genial scholar in 
his home in London, in which he accorded to me the vastly stimu 
lating honor of listening with sympathetic and helpful criticism to 
a paper which I was scheduled to present before the International 
Congress of Orientalists, Almost from the moment of my coming 
to the College, or perhaps even from my student days in Germany, 
my studies had turned in the direction of the history of the religions 
of the Semitic peoples and of their institutions, and, of course, of 
Judaism in particular. That has been the field of my scholarly pas- 

Julian Morgenstern 269 

sion. And even such studies in biblical exegesis as I have been able 
to carry on, have been largely in the nature of indispensable pre 
liminaries to a history of Judaism and the Jewish people in the initial 
period of their unfolding. Many preliminary studies are still to be 
completed and others perhaps at least to be inaugurated. But even 
tually I hope to produce a history of Judaism and its institutions dur 
ing the entire biblical period. 

However, even this is not my ultimate goal, but only a stage there- 
toward. For my studies, especially those of recent years, have dis 
closed to me something of the nature and importance of what I 
have come to call peripheral Judaism, the Judaism not only of cer 
tain, numerically small Jewish sects, whose centers were in the im 
mediate vicinity of Jerusalem, but also and especially of those many 
Jewish communities, some of considerable size, which lay beyond 
the range of direct influence of Jerusalem and the Temple, and the 
expression and practice of whose Judaism reflected in no small degree 
their immediate and varying cultural environments. 

Among these divergent forms of peripheral Judaism my interest 
centers most of all in that of Galilee, where, in the midst of a dis 
tinctly rural and reactionary Jewish community, many of the tradi 
tions, doctrines, and cultural and cultic institutions of early Judaism, 
which Normative Judaism had long discarded, seem to have per 
sisted and to have contributed much to, and even to have found re 
newed vitality in, nascent Christianity. As I see it, Christianity was at 
first only another form of peripheral Judaism, and one much closer 
in antecedents and content to Normative Judaism than is usually 
realized or even suspected. To understand both Judaism and Chris 
tianity aright, and the latter even more than the former, I am con 
vinced that a thorough study must be made of Galilean Judaism and 
of its relations, on the one hand, to Normative Judaism, and, on the 
other hand, to Christianity in its earliest period. It is my further con 
viction that a right understanding of both Judaism and Christianity 
in their historic relationship will contribute much, very much, to 
the constructive coordination ot these two intimately related world 
religions, to the clarification of their true messages and goals, to their 
indispensable cooperation for the spiritual salvation of mankind, 

2jo Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

and, for us most immediately, to the spiritual enrichment of Amer 
ican life and culture. 

For earnest study through the years has made clear to me that what 
is fundamental and eternal in Christianity is what it has derived 
from Judaism, its parent. What Hellenism and other cultures have 
superimposed upon it seems to me largely secondary and non- 
essential. Furthermore, in one fundamental respect Christianity is 
the indispensable complement of Judaism. Judaism is in basic prin 
ciple and in spirit definitely a universalistic religion: a universalistic 
religion, however, upon the practical program of which the circum 
stances of history have imposed the limitations and inhibitions of a 
firmly rooted and persistent nationalism. Christianity, on the other 
hand, is in every respect a universalistic religion which transcends in 
character, organization, and program all the implications, restric 
tions, and compulsions of nationalism. 

In principle it has been Judaism's task, from the time of Deutero- 
Isaiah, to bring to the world the knowledge of the one universal 
God, to win all mankind to His way of life, to promote democracy, 
justice, peace, and brotherhood, and thus to enable men and na 
tions to find the salvation which then and at all times the world has 
been so eagerly, so desperately, seeking. This principle, this truth, 
this way of life and faith, Judaism has been proclaiming in doctrine 
and prayer for twenty-five hundred years. But upon a positive and 
aggressive program of realization of it by Judaism, Jewish religious 
nationalism, revived and enforced by Ezra and Nehemiah about the 
middle of the fifth century B.C.E., rigidly particularistic and isola 
tionist in principle and application, has imposed a positive and com 
pelling limitation and inhibition. Viewed from one angle this was 
indeed a fortunate, perhaps even a providential, circumstance of his 
tory; for it, far more than aught else, has kept the Jewish people 
alive, preserved its integrity, and, with the Jewish people as its bearer, 
has enabled Judaism, too, to persist, to live vitally and creatively and 
to continue to utter its message of life and to bear testimony by its 
very existence and by its word to the one, universal, eternal God. 

But at the same time it has made it totally impossible for Judaism 
to become an actively propagandistic, and still less a conversionist 

Julian Morgenstern 271 

religion, to formulate and determinedly pursue a program o winning 
all nations and all mankind to positive and concrete acceptance of 
its teaching and its faith, and to living in conformity with God's 
way of life, revealed through Israel's prophets. Even with the 
eventual and not too long delayed partial modification of the program 
of Ezra and Nehemiah and the inevitable softening of its extreme 
particularism and isolationism, the other nations and peoples could 
not, in principle and doctrine, attain to a position in the sight of God 
and in the actual life of the world on a par with Israel, the "kingdom 
of priests and the holy nation." Working from such a premise, Israel 
could not possibly win the world to the way and worship of the one, 
true God and bring to it that salvation which Israel had been the 
first to proclaim. 

And so, I believe, still through the workings of providence, this 
task of converting the world devolved upon Christianity. Judaism's 
mission is still to proclaim in unfaltering tones the eternal truth of 
the one, living God in all its far reaching implications. Christianity's 
mission is to enforce this truth, to win the entire world to it. Chris 
tianity's raison d'etre, its historic vocation, is to bring the message 
of Judaism to actual realization. Whatever is essential and eternal in 
Christianity is Jewish through and through. Christianity is still, in 
inner truth, naught but a-normative, peripheral Judaism, precisely 
as it was at the beginning. Divested of the external trappings of its 
own Hellenistic mythology and ritual, it is essentially Judaism, 
Judaism stripped of nationalist, isolationist wrappings, reverting in 
very large measure to its form and expression of the pre-Ezranic 
period, and seeking to make real and vital the vision and the message 
of the one, universal God and the world encompassing democratic 
life, which Judaism first proclaimed. The mission of Christianity is 
the complement of the mission of Judaism. Each without the other 
is incomplete, unreal, and unrealizable. Each is indispensable to the 
other. Alone, by itself, neither can fulfil its God-appointed destiny 
and save the world. Together, understanding each other, trusting 
each other, working together as partners in destiny, as loving mother 
and devoted daughter, they can and must bring to fulfilment the 
all embracing beneficent purpose of the one God of all the world. 

272 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

This is my conviction, growing out of a half-century of earnest 
and sincere thought and study. This is my faith. And to the systematic 
formulation of this faith and to its dissemination I have set myself 
for the remainder of my days. This I conceive to be my ultimate 
life work. To this, I believe sincerely, God has called me. And though 
outwardly I seem to have drifted into it, even as I have indicated, 
now that, from the vantage point of advancing years and with 
steadily expanding perspective, I can look backward and view my 
life and my preparation for service as a whole, I cannot but be con 
vinced that God's hand has been in it, that He has guided my prepara 
tion and has made me whatever I am today. 

And even today I stand only on the threshold of my service. I pray 
that I may be granted to carry it on a little further. But I know that 
the goal is far too vast for me to reach alone. I pray also therefore, 
that there may be others to carry on after me, a few disciples of the 
word perhaps and many more disciples of the spirit, day by day, year 
by year, bringing the goal a little nearer to realization. One God, one 
world, one humanity, and Judaism, in both its Jewish and its 
Christian forms, its herald and its guide. This is the service of God. 
In this service I have sought to be an earnest and a humble worker. 
I trust and I pray that in this service I have kept faith with God, 
with Israel, with my colleagues and my students, and with mankind. 



Born Cissna Park, Illinois, 1884; studied at Penn College, Hartford 
Theological Seminary, and the Harvard Divinity School; married 
and has two daughters; ordained to ministry of Society of Friends, 
1913, he was pastor of the Friends Meeting, Toronto, Canada, 
1913-1917, and in Oskaloosa, Iowa, 1917-1919; then secretary, Young 
Friends Organization of America, 1919-1922; he was professor of 
Biblical literature, Earlham College, 1923-1929; and executive secre 
tary, American Friends Service Committee, 1929-1950; is now honor 
ary secretary; he is director, United States Committee for Care of 
European Children and of the Pendle Hill Graduate School; he was 
recipient in 1939, with Dr. Rufus M. Jones, of the Philadelphia award 
for services advancing the best interests of the community; appointed 
a member of the President's Commission on Immigration and Na 
turalization, 1952. 


Born in Somerville, Massachusetts, in 1891; graduated from Am- 
herst College; married and has a daughter; Amherst College Fel 
low, 1912-1914; a member of firm of industrial consultants, 1915- 
1917; with Bureau of Industrial Research, New York, 1917-1919; in 
charge of war emergency employment management courses of War 
Department at Columbia University, 1917-1918; lecturer in personnel 
administration, Columbia, since 1920; member, department of in 
dustry, New York School of Social Work, 1920-1929; editor, business 
books, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1920-1925; editor, social and 
economic books, Harper & Brothers; chairman, Board of Higher 
Education of New York City; chairman, board of trustees, Briarcliff 


276 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

Junior College; member, American Economic Association, Ameri 
can Management Association, American Psychology Association, 
Society for the Advancement of Management; author and editor. 


Born in Oyster Bay, New York, in 1877; studied at Princeton 
University, King's College, Cambridge University; married and 
has a son and three daughters; was research assistant with Carnegie 
Institution, Washington, stationed at Cambridge, England, 1903- 
1905; went to Princeton in 1905 and until 1908 was an instructor in 
astronomy, assistant professor, 1908-1911, professor, 1911-1947, direc 
tor of observatory, 1912-1947, research professor, 1927-1947, emeritus, 
1947; research associate, Harvard College observatory since 1947; 
served as Engineer, Aircraft Service, United States Army, 1918; 
member, National Academy of Sciences, American Philosophical 
Society (president, 1931-1932), American Academy of Arts and Sci 
ences American Astronomical Society (president, 1934-1937), Ameri 
can Physical Society; fellow, American Association for the Advance 
ment of Science (president, 1933) ; member of several foreign scientific 
academies; recipient of many medals from scientific associations; 
author and contributor on astronomical and physical topics to 
scientific journals. 


Born in Waldo, Ohio, in 1863; studied at Ohio Wesleyan Univer 
sity, and The Johns Hopkins University; holds honorary degrees 
from there and from Yale University, Western Reserve University, 
University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University; widower; had one 
son and two daughters; was professor of biology at Ohio Wesleyan, 
professor of zoology at Northwestern University and University of 
Pennsylvania; professor of biology at Princeton from 1908-1933, 

Biographical Sketches 277 

emeritus since 1933, and special lecturer in biology; trustee, Woods 
Hole Laboratory and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; former 
president, Bermuda Biological Station; to mention only American 
societies member. National Academy of Sciences; fellow, American 
Association for the Advancement of Science (president, 1936), Amer 
ican Academy of Arts and Sciences; member, American Society of 
Zoologists (president, 1899), Association of American Anatomists, 
American Society of Naturalists (president, 1912) ; held position as 
secretary, vice president, executive officer, American Philosophical 
Society, was president from 1942-1945 and 1948-1952; vice president 
(1901-1950), Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences; recipient of 
John J. Carty gold medal and award, National Academy of Sciences, 
1943, National Institute of Social Science gold medal, 1943; co-editor, 
Biological Bulletin, Journal of Experimental Zoology, Genetics; au 
thor of over two hundred works on heredity, development, education, 
evolution, etc. 


Born in Union Hill, New Jersey, in 1900; studied at Columbia 
University, University of Paris, ficole des Hautes fitudes; married 
and has two sons and a daughter; served as apprentice seaman in the 
United States Navy, 1918; taught philosophy, Greek, and Latin at 
Columbia University, 1925-1935; has been associated with The 
University of Chicago since 1934 as visiting professor of history, 
professor of Greek, professor of philosophy, dean of the Division of 
Humanities, and in 1937 became distinguished service professor of 
Greek and philosophy; was a member of the United States delegation 
to the General Conference of Unesco in Paris, 1946, Mexico City, 
1947, Beirut, 1948; United States counselor on Unesco Affairs, 
American Embassy, Paris, 1947; chairman United Nations Associa 
tion of Chicago, 1949-1950; member, United States National Com 
mission for Unesco; fellow, Mediaeval Academy of America, Ameri 
can Academy of Arts and Sciences; member, American Philosophical 
Association (president, Western Division, 1951-1952), American As- 

278 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

sedation for the Advancement of Science, American Philological 
Association, History of Science Society, American Council of Learned 
Societies (vice chairman, 1939), member, Board of Directors, Con 
ference on Science, Philosophy and Religion; author and co-author of 
books on history, philosophy, etc., i.e., Freedom and History, 1952; 
member, board of editors, Classical Philology and Journal of the 
History of Ideas; contributor to the Encyclopedia of the Social 
Sciences and various journals. 


Born in Auburn, Maine, in 1904; studied at Bates College, and 
was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University; married and has two 
daughters; reporter, Christian Science Monitor, 1925; covered annual 
sessions of the League of Nations Assembly, 1926, 1927, and 1928, 
and Ramsay MacDonald's tour in the United States, 1929; was chief 
correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor at the London 
Naval Conference in 1930; correspondent at Geneva, Switzerland, 
1930-1932; head of the Washington Bureau, Christian Science 
Monitor, 1932-1939; general news editor, 1939-1941 ; managing editor, 
1941-1944; since 1945 has been editor of the publication; radio com 
mentator, 1938-1939, 1945-; vice president, American Society of 
Newspaper Editors; president, American Society of Newspaper 
Editors, 1948-1949; deputy chief, American delegation to the United 
Nations Conference on Freedom of Information at Geneva, 1948; 
United States delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, 
1949; member United States Advisory Commission on Information; 
vice-chairman of the United States National Commission for 
Unesco; author (with others), The World at Mid-Century, 1951. 


Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1883, studied at the University of 
Utah (A.B.), University of California (PhD.), received honorary 
degrees from University of Southern California and University of 

Biographical Sketches 279 

Hawaii (LL.D.) and National University (Litt.D.), married and has 
three daughters; served as missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ 
of Latter-Day Saints in Japan, 1907-1912; traveled and studied in Asia 
and Europe, 1912-1913; taught Latin and Greek at the University of 
Utah from 1914-1916, secretary-registrar from 1917-1921; fellow, polit 
ical science at the University of California, 1922-1924; professor of 
political science at the University of Utah, 1924-1933; Oberlaender 
Award for study in Germany, 1934; member of the United States 
Senate, 1933-1951; United States High Commissioner Trust Territory 
of the Pacific Islands, with rank of Ambassador, since 1951; served as 
Major in the Inspector General's Department, Utah National Guard 
and the United States Reserves, 1917-1926; member, General Board, 
Deseret S.S. Union; delegate, United States Senate Interparliamen 
tary Union, Budapest, 1936, Paris, 1937; chairman, Thomas Jefferson 
Memorial Commission; director, Columbia Institute for the Deaf; 
appointed United States delegate, International Labor Organiza 
tion, United Nations, Philadelphia, 1944, Paris, 1945, Montreal, 1946, 
Geneva, 1947, San Francisco, 1948; member, American Association of 
University Professors, American Society of International Law (hon 
orary vice president), American Political Science Association (vice 
president, 1940-1941), Chinese Political and Social Science Associa 
tion; Council of American Learned Societies, American Oriental 
Society, Carnegie International Conference of American Professors 
(1926), Conference of Teachers of International Law, Washington, 
D.C. (1925-1928), Board of Advisers, Institute of World Affairs; 
author of Su\ui No Michi (in Japanese) (1911), Chinese Political 
Thought (1927), World Unity Through Study of History (1933), 
Thomas Jefferson, World Citizen (1942), The Four Fears (1944), 
and This Nation Under God (1950). 


The daughter of the outstanding Jewish leader, Rabbi Meir Berlin, 
and wife of Professor Saul Lieberman, was born in Lithuania in 1905. 
She received her elementary education at a Berlin elementary school, 

280 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 

her secondary and college education in New York City. After 
receiving her B A. from Hunter College, she did post-graduate work 
at Columbia University, and the Universities of Berlin and Zurich, 
where she received the Ph.D. She is the author of Robert Browning 
and Hebraism. Active in educational and social fields, she taught 
from 1932-1940 at the Mizrachi Teachers' College for Women, 
Jerusalem, and organized various social projects for the rehabilitation 
of children under Mizrachi auspices. Returning to the United States 
in 1940, she has been principal of the Shulamith School for Girls an 
institution that pursues a bi-lingual program English and Hebrew. 
She has served as National Political Chairman of the Mizrachi 
Women's Organization of America, and has contributed articles on 
political and educational issues to The Mizrachi Woman and other 


Born in Augusta, Georgia, in 1882; studied at Paine College, Drew 
University, Morehouse College; holds honorary degrees from Gam 
mon Theological Seminary, Jewish Institute of Religion, Morehouse 
College, New School for Social Research, New York University; 
widower, had two daughters; professor of biblical literature at Paine 
College, 1905-1911'; secretary, student department, National Council, 
Young Men's Christian Association, 1911-1923; senior secretary, In 
terracial Services of Y.M.C.A.S, 1923-1946; member, executive com 
mittee, Commission on Churches and Race Relations, Field Depart 
ment, and Committee on Worship of the Federal Council of Churches 
of Christ in America; director and trustee, Phelps-Stokes Fund; 
member, board of trustees, Howard University; fnember, American 
Section of the Universal Christian Council for Life and Work, Pan- 
African Congress, Paris, 1921; student deputation that visited Euro 
pean relief areas, 1921; delegate and speaker at the World Conference 
of Y.M.C.A.'s, Finland, 1926; lectured in Latvia, 1926; associate 
director, Commission on Interracial Cooperation, 1935-1942; delegate 
and chairman of the commission on race relations, World Conference 
of Y.M.CA. J s, India, 1937; appointed member, National Advisory 

Biographical Sketches 281 

Committee on Selective Service, 1940; Joint Army and Navy Com 
mittee on Welfare and Recreation, 1941; chairman, board of trustees, 
Hampton Institute, 1946; trustee, New School for Social Research, 
1946; member, President's Committee on Civil Rights, 1946; mem 
ber, Civilian Committee of the United States Navy, 1946; member, 
executive committee, World's Committee of Y.M.C.A.; alternate dele 
gate from the United States to the Sixth General Assembly of the 
United Nations, 1951; member, Board of Managers, American Bible 
Society; received Harmon award for religious service, 1928; Spingarn 
Medal, National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peo 
ple, 1948; author of numerous articles. 


Born in London, England, in 1885; studied at Jews' College 
(London), University of London, University of Berlin, University of 
Heidelberg, Rabbinerseminar (Berlin) ; married Tamar Hirshenson, 
and has a son, Professor Ithicl, and a daughter, Dr. Naomi; minister 
of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, Shearith Israel, New 
York City, since 1907; one of the three Jewish representatives ap 
pointed to serve on Herbert Hoover's food conservation staff, 1917; 
vice president, Jewish Welfare Board, field organizer of its welfare 
work, 1917-1918, and chairman, Committee on Army and Navy 
Religious Activities and representative of Jewish Army and Navy 
chaplains to Chief of Chaplains, 1940-1947; appointed one of three 
American representatives on Zionist Commission to Palestine, 1919; 
regional director for Palestine and Syria of the Joint Distribution 
Committee of American Funds for Jewish War Sufferers, 1919-1921; 
director, Jewish Education Association; president, Young Judea of 
America, 1915-1919, 1924, 1925; president, New York Board of Jewish 
Ministers, 1916-1917; president, Union of Sephardic Congregations 
since 1928; president, Synagogue Council of America, 1938-1940; 
member, Advisory Committee, National Youth Administration, 1935- 
1943; author of various volumes and editor and translator of volumes 
on Hebrew liturgy. 

282 Thirteen Americans: Their Spiritual Autobiographies 


Born in Taunton, Massachusetts, in 1892; graduate, Dartmouth 
College, Harvard Law School; married and has two daughters; 
formed law partnership with Franklin D. Roosevelt as Roosevelt 
& O'Connor in 1925, continuing until Mr. Roosevelt assumed the 
office of President of the United States in 1933; now senior partner 
in O'Connor & Farber; chairman, Board of Governors, League of 
Red Cross Societies, 1946-1950; president, American Red Cross, 1944- 
1949; president, National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, Inc.; 
president, Georgia Warm Springs Foundation; chairman, Board of 
Trustees, Tuskegee Institute; vice president, National Health Coun 
cil; officer, director and trustee of numerous other educational, hu 
manitarian and legal institutions. 


Born in Peabody, Massachusetts, in 1882; received B.A. at Olivet 
College (Michigan) ; B.A. and M.A. at Oxford University (Rhodes 
Scholar); M.A. at Yale University; D.D. from Yale University, 
Amherst College, Brown University, Williams College; S.T.D. Har 
vard University; Litt.D. Boston University; married and has a 
daughter; ordained a Congregational minister in 1908 and was pastor 
of churches in Fall River and Boston until 1922; lecturer and professor 
of practical theology at Andover Theological Seminary, 1917-1925; 
dean of the Harvard Divinity School and professor of practical 
theology since 1922; member, board of preachers, Harvard, since 
1921; chairman, board of preachers, and Plummer professor of 
Christian morals since 1929; dean of National Council on Religion in 
Higher Education, 1927-1931; has lectured extensively at educational 
institutions here and abroad; trustee, Vassar College, 1942-1946; 
fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1927; author and 
frequent contributor to magazines and religious journals. 

Biographical Sketches 283 


Born in St. Francisville, Illinois, in 1881; studied at University of 
Cincinnati, Hebrew Union College, University o Berlin, University 
of Heidelberg; married and has one daughter; ordained as rabbi in 
1902; served as rabbi in Lafayette, Indiana, 1904-1907; has been pro 
fessor of Bible and Semitic languages at Hebrew Union College since 
1907, also serving in the capacities of acting-president (1921-1922), 
and president (1922-1947), and has been president emeritus since 
1947; member, Central Conference of American Rabbis (secretary, 
1907-1915), American Oriental Society (president, Western branch, 
1919-1920, and of general society, 1927-1928), Society of Biblical Lit- 
erature and Exegesis (president, Midwest branch, 1938-1939, and of 
general society, 1940-1941), Alumni Association of Hebrew Union 
College (president, 1916-1918); American vice president, World 
Union for Progressive Judaism; honorary member, British Society for 
Old Testament Studies, 1951 ; author of numerous books on the 
Bible and Semitics, and contributor to magazines. 


Abbot, Lyman, 56 

Abclard, Peter, 87 

Abrahams, Israel, 207 

Abramson, Dr. Harold A., 124 

Adams, William Wisner, 240-242, 243 

Adkinson, Reverend L. G., 53 

Administration as moral responsibility, 

Africa, South, 195, 197 

Aggression of mass man, 250 

Agnostics, 35 

Alexander, Will W., 185 

Alger, Horatio, pattern of American life, 

Allegories, 42 

American Friends Service Committee, n, 

American life, unity from diversity, 176 

American National Red Cross, 221 

Amherst College, 16 

Anabaptism, 234 

Andover Creed, 244 

Andover Seminary, 231 

Anglo-Catholics, 34 

Animal development, 47-48 

Anthropocentric humanism, 24 

Apologia Pro Vita Sua t Cardinal New 
man, 247-248 

Arabs, 171 

Aristotle, 88, 89 

Arizona Temple (Mormon), 139 

Arnold, Matthew, 75 

Assyriology, 260, 261 
Atlanta University, 178, 179 
Augusta Chronicle, 179 
Augusta, Georgia, 177/f. 
Autobiography, 78-79 

Bacon, Francis, 73, 85 

Bacon, Leonard, 36 

Baeck, Rabbi Leo, 12 

Bakewell, Professor, 238 

Balfour Declaration, 215 

Barkley, Albcn W., 140 

Barnett, Lincoln, 124 

Bashford, James W., 55 

Bates College, 120, 121 

Beauty, through arts and in nature, 29 

Behavior, trial and error, 69 

Bell, William Y., 190 

Bennett, Charles, 238 

Bergson, Henri, 85 

Berlin, Rabbi Meir, 162 

Berlin, Rabbi Naphtali-Zvi Yehuda, 160- 


Berry, William, 8 
Bethune, Mary McLeod, 185, 187 

reading of, 16 
in home, 3-4 

study of, 8 
Bismarck, 136 
Bloom, Sol, 133 
Bowles, Gilbert, 4-5 




Boys' clubs, 16 

Brandeis, Mr. Justice, 153 

Briarcliff Junior College, 24 

Brooks, W. K., 54, 73 

Brotherhood of Man, 220-221, 222, 229 

Brown, Edgar Miles, 259 

Brown, John, 52 

Brown University, 181 

Browning, Robert, 45, 169, 206 

Brunschvicg, Leon, 85, 87 

Bryan, William Jennings, 56, 140 

Scopes trial, 66 
Buber, Martin, 12 
Buchenwald, 12 

Buddhism and Buddhists, 152, 158 
Buddhist temples, 138 
Butler, Bishop, 73 
Buttz, Dr. Henry Anson, 190 

Calculating machines, 70 
Calvinism, 231, 244 
Cambridge University, 33, 34 

academic degrees, 45 
Campbell, Robert L., 180 
Canham, Erwin D., 115-127 

biographical sketch, 278 

education of, 120 

family background, 115-118 

illness of mother, 119-120, 121 

religious practices in home, 115-123 

Rhodes scholar, 121 
Carey, James B., 188 
Carleton College, 15 
Carlyle, Thomas, 59-60 
Carnegie Institution, 35 
Carpetbaggism, 152 
Carter, Randall A., 190 
Cause and effect, chain of, 65-66 
Character, definition of, 48 
Chayyim, Rabbi, 160 
Chicago, University of, 89-101 
Chicago World's Fair, 133, 134, 136 
Chinese proverb, 13 
Christian Endeavor Society, 6-7 
Christian Science, 115-127 

abstinence of members, 117 

Sunday School, 121-122 
Christian Science Monitor, 126 

Christian theology, Trinitarian creeds, 40 

and nobility of labor, 224 

as peripheral Judaism, 269-272 

future of, 250-251 
Christianity and the Social Crisis, Walter 

Raushenbush, 16 

Christians and Jews, National Con 
ference of, 221 
Christians, race, and human relations, 


"Christmas Eve," Robert Browning, 45 

and state, separation of, 142-143 

case for, 250 

"shopping around for," 249 
Churches of Christ in America, National 

Council of, 185 
Cicero, on old age, 139 
Cincinnati, University of, 258, 259, 260 
Civil Rights, President's Committee on, 
186, 187, 188, 189 

Report, 183 
Clark, Dr. W. B., 54 
Clemens, Samuel, 49 
Cleveland, Grover, 140 

on role of U.S. government, 145 
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 248 
Columbia University, 23, 80, 87 

War Emergency Employment Manage 
ment Courses, 22 

Commission on Human Rights, 109 
Communist propaganda, 49 
Conference of Allied Ministers of Educa 
tion (CAME), 107 
Confession, 78 
Confucianism, 142-143 
Congregationalism, 231, 239, 240, 243 
Congressional committees, 49 
Conklin, Belle Adkinson, 53-54 
Conklin, Edwin Grant, 47-76 

at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, 54-55 

biographical sketch, 276-277 

books by: 

Direction of Human Evolution, The, 


Heredity and Environment in the 
Development of Man, 48 



Conklin, Edwin Grant (cont.) : 
Man: Real and Ideal, 75 

confession of faith, 74-76 

early years, 49-50 

education of, 50-55 

on evolution and creation, 59-64 

on freedom and responsibility, 64-67 

on mechanism and finalism, 67-72 

on nature and the supernatural, 72-74 

professor, 52-57 

Johns Hopkins University, 54-55 
Northwestern University, 55-56 
Rust University, 53-54 
University of Pennsylvania, 56 

religion and church relations, 57-59 
Conscientious objectors, 249 
Creation, evolution and, 59-64 
Creative synthesis, 62, 63 
Creeds, Trinitarian, 40, 41 
Crime, Clarence Darrow, 65 
Cry, the Beloved Country, 27 

humanistic aspects of, no 

interrelations of, 102-106 
Cybernetics, 70 

Dalai Lama priests, 152 
Daniels, Jonathan, 187 
Darrow, Clarence, 65 

Scopes trial, 66 
Darwin, Charles, 59, 60, 71, 72, 73 

theory of natural selection, 60, 68 
Darwinism, 135 
Davis, John D., 66-67 
Declaration of Independence, 136, 142 
Dedication, triumphant, 30 
Delaware, Ohio, 49, 50 
Democracy, 141, 222 

and moral responsibility, 29 

meanings of, 109-110 

merit system and, 222-223 
Democracy in a World of Tensions, 109 
Dcmocritus, 89, in 
Descartes, Rene*, 85, 87 
Determinism, absolute, theory of, 65-67 
Dewey, John, 20, 82, 83, 89, 92, in 
Dickinson, G. Lowes, 20 

Dinwoody, Henry, 144 

Divine call, 257 

Dixon, W. MacNeill, 25 

Dooley, Mr., 49 

Drama, religious, 250 

Drew Theological Seminary, 181, 190 

Dreyfus case, 208 

Dunbar, Helen Flanders, 124 

Earlham College, n 

Ecclesiasticism, 250 

Eclecticism, theological, 248 

Ecumenical movement, 248 

Eddington, Sir Arthur, 63 

Eddy, Mary Baker, 121, 122, 125, 126 

Edinburgh Conference on Faith and 

Order, 248 

and moral responsibility, 29 

from biological viewpoint, 48 

general, new forms of, 97-101, 102 

in Georgia, 178 

knowledge through, 225 

Negro, 191-192 
Education, Conference of Allied Ministers 

of, 107 

Eisenhower, D wight David, 155 
Electron, behavior of, 42 
Eliot, Charles W., 140, 246, 247 
Embree, Edwin R., 185 
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 206 
Emotions and Bodily Changes, Helen F. 

Dunbar, 124 

Environment, heredity and, 48 
Eppstein, Rabbi Michael, 162 
Error, probability of, 66 
Ether, elastic solid, 44 
Evangelization of world, 8-9 
Evansville College, 53 

breaking the cycle of, 14 

goodness and, 25 

Quakers' views of, 12-13 

and creation, 59-64 

religion and, 55 
Extremes, avoiding, 65 



Fabian socialism, 209 

Farming, 2-3, 9 

Faulkner, Alfred, 190 

Field, Marshall, Foundation, 185 

Find Faith, The, W. D. McKenzie, 10 

Finalism, mechanism and, 67-72 

Finkelstein, Louis, 219 

Fitch, Albert Parker, 244 

Floyd, Silas X., 177 

Force, use of, 14 

Foss, Martin M., 22 

Fox, George, 13 

Frazer, Sir James G., 268 

Freedom, and responsibility, 64-67 

Freud, Sigmund, 92 

Friedlaender, Michael, 207 

Friend, The, 7 

Friends Service Committee, American, 

ii, 275 
Fundamentalism, 246, 264 

Galilee, peripheral Judaism in, 269 

Galsworthy, John, 20 

Gandhi, Mahatma, 30, 141, 192-195 

Georgia, occupational patterns in, 179 

Georgia State College for Negroes, 178 

German Jews, 172 

Germans in Illinois, 2 

Germany, and Versailles Treaty, 14 

Gettysburg Address, 49 

Ghetto, London, 210 

Gilbert, John Wesley, 181 

Gilson, tienne, 87 

God, 75 

"absolute" knowledge of, 42 

and racial segregation, 183 

as personal being, 43 

Christian Science view of, 122, 123, 

idea of, 242 

Jewish-Christian, 142, 270-272 

Spinoza's view of, 84 

Tead's view of, 25-27 

use of word, 12, 251 

various names for, 76 

Whitehead's view of, 63-64 
Golden Bough, The, Sir James G. Frazer, 

Golden Rule, 192 
Goodwill, self -giving, 14 
Gossip, 175-176 
Gracious living, 30 
Grant, Heber J., 144, 148 
Green Pastures, The, 27 

Habits, establishment of, 48 

Hadley, Dr. Stephen, 7 

Haggadic literature, 176 

Hamlett, J. Arthur, 190 

Hankey, Donald, 43 

Hankinson, Mrs. M. Z., 180-181 

Happiness, labor and, 224 

Hartford Theological Seminary, 10 

Hawaiian Temple (Mormon), 139 

Health of mankind, 226-228 

Hebrew, study of, 8 

Hebrew Union College, 255-258, 266-268 

Heidelberg University, 260, 262 

Hellenism, 270 

Henderson, Lawrence J., 71 

Order of Nature, The, 72 
Heredity, 64-65 

and environment, 48 
Herzl, Theodor, 208 
Hinduism, 157 
Hinks, Arthur, 35 
Hirai, Kinza, 133 
History, 77 

research, 78 

study of, 93 

transformed into fiction, 77 
Hitler, Adolf, 14 
Hodges, Dean, 239 
Holidays, Jewish, 205, 255 
Holland, J. G., 224 
Holsey, Bishop Lucius H,, 190 
Hope, John, 179 
Hudson, Thomson Jay, 17 
Human being, definition of, 47 
Human relations, Christians and, 17-18 
Human Rights: 

Commission on, 109 

Universal Declaration of, 109 
Human Situation, The, W. M. Dixon, 25 
Humanism, 247 

scientific, 24 




and social sciences, 92-96 

shift from science to, 197 
Hume, David, 92 
Humor, sense of, 49 
Hunton, William A., 185 
Hutchins, Robert Maynard, 89 
Huxley, on teleology, 71-72 
Hyde, Orson, 138 
Hypnosis, 124 

Ibsen, Henrik, 20 

Ideas, American attitudes toward, 85-86 

Imagination, repeated forcible expansion 

of, 39 

India, 192-195 

freedom and, 64-67 

vs. aggression of mass man, 250 
Individualism, rugged, 20 
Industrial counseling, 21 
Industrial Revolution, 134 
Infantile Paralysis, National Foundation 

for, 221 

Infinite numbers, 41 
Infinity, philosophy of, 40-41 
Instincts in Industry, Ordway Tead, 17 
Insurance, unemployment, 21 
Intelligence, a moral obligation, 19 
Intolerance, racial, 17-18, 183 
Irrationality, cult of, 251 
Israel (see also Palestine): 

Land of, return to, 162 

James, William, 20, 248 
Japan, 134, 135, 147, 157 

baseball in, 148-149 

conference of religious sects, 149-150 

Friends* Girls School, Tokyo, 4, 5 

women's suffrage in, 144 
Jeans, Sir James, 39 
Jefferson, Wilson, 177-178 
Jeremiah, 176 
Jerusalem, 138, 169 

Wailing Wall, 197, 216 
Jesus, 241 

and problems of everyday life, 242 

Jesus (cont.)\ 

sacrifice of, 14 

use of word in religious talk, 12 
Jesus Christ and the Social Question, 

Francis Greenwood Peabody, 17 
Jewish Agency, 170 
Jewish ceremonials, 255-256 
Jewish-Christian ethic, 250 
Jewish-Christian God, 142, 270-272 
Jewish Education Association, New York 

City, 216 

Jewish holidays, 205, 255 

and Torah, 172-174 

contemptuous remarks against, 203- 

English, 201 

German, 172 

Jews' College, London, 207, 211 
Johnson, James Weldon, 186 
Joint Distribution Committee in Syria 

and Palestine, 215 
Jones, Rufus M., 275 
Jones, Sam, 180 
Judaism, 12 

history of, 268 

peripheral, 269-272 

Kcllogg-Briand Peace Pact, 214 

Kingdom of God, 29 

Kohler, Dr. Kaufmann, 266, 267-268 

Labor audits, 17, 21 
Labor, concepts of, 222-224 
LaGuardia, Fiorella, 23 
Land Grant College Act, 155 

challenge of words, 251 

study of, 92-93 

teaching of, 102-106 
Lanier, Sidney, 177 

Law of Psychic Phenomena, The, Thom 
son Jay Hudson, 17 
Layman's Movement, 250 
League of Nations, 214 
League to Enforce Peace, 140 
Lewis, Rosa, 8 



Liberalism, tradition of, in United States, 

Lieberman, Judith Berlin, 159-176 

and Mizrachi Women's Organization, 

biographical sketch, 279-280 

education of, 168-170 

father of, 164-167, 168 

grandfather of, 159-162 

grandmother of, 162-164 

in Jerusalem, 169-171 

mother of, 166-167 

on study of Torah, 172-174 

principal, Shulamith School for Girls, 


return to United States, 171 
Life, elemental properties of, 62-63 
Light-waves, theory of, 44 
Lippmann, Walter, 40 
Loeb, Jacques, 65 
London ghetto, 210-211 
Lost in the Stars, 27 
Love, and human relations, 29 
Lowell, Lawrence, 245 
Lyons, Judson W., 178 

Magnes, Judah Leon, 259-260 
Man, mass, aggression of, 250 
Martin, H. Newell, 54 
Marxism, 135 

Massachusetts Committee on Unemploy 
ment, 21 

Mayan monuments, 137 
McKenzie, Dr. William Douglas, 10, 12 
McKeon, Richard, 77-114 
and Unesco, 107-109 
biographical sketch, 277-278 
education of, 80-87 
on educational problems, 89-101, 113, 

on philosophic problems, 80-89, H3> 

on political problems, 102-110, 113, 



Columbia University, 87-88 
University of Chicago, 89-101 
McKinley, William, 178 

Measurability, limited, theory of, 66 
Mechanism, and finalism, 67-72 
Meditation, 29 
Meiklejohn, Alexander, 246 
Meldola, Raphael, 201 
Mendes, Frederick de Sola, 202 
Mendes, H. Pereira, 202, 212 
Merit system, 222-223 

and democracy, 222-223 
Metcalf, Henry C., 22 
Methodist BooJ^ of Discipline, The, 57 
Methodist Church, 52, 53, 55, 56, 57, 

Colored, 189-190 

"Report of Southeastern Jurisdiction of 
Women's Society of Christian 
Service," 183-184 
Michelson, Albert, 61 
Mielziner, Dr. Moses, 257 
Militarism, 244 
Milton, John, 64 

as profession, 9, 17-20 

"call" to, 52 

lay, 1 8 

Missionary movement, 8-9 
Mizrachi communities, Palestine, 170, 

Mizrachi Organization, 174 

Women's membership, 174-175 
Mizrachi Teachers' Training School for 

Girls, 171 

Mohammedanism, 157 
Moore, Bishop Arthur J., 181 
Moore's Hill College, 53 
Moorland, Jesse E., 185 
Moral responsibility, key words of, 28-29 
Morehouse College, 179 
Morgenstern, Julian, 253-272 

as college president, 268 

as college professor, 266-268 

becomes rabbi, 257 

biographical sketch, 283 

childhood of, 254-257 

education of, 256-259 

family background, 254 

in Lafayette, Indiana, 263-266 

marriage of, 263 



Morgenstern, Julian (cont.}: 

Ministers' Association, member of, 

paper on "The Virgin Birth," 264-265 

student in Germany, 259-263 
Morley, Christopher, 30 
Mormons, 129-158 

amnesty gained by, 144 

care for children and youths, 153 

.chaplains, in World War I, 150 

cooperatives, 144 

home missions, 146 

Meeting House, 131 

missionaries, 148 

Patriarchial blessing, 143 

Pioneers, 131 

Relief Society Sisters, 144-146 

Salt Lake Temple, 136-139 

storage o wheat by, 144-145 
Moton, Robert R. f 185 
Mott, John R., 185 
Mourner's bench, 58 
Mueller, Johannes Peter, 84 
Myers, P. V. N., 259 
Mysteries, 42 

artificial, 43-44 

National Association for the Advance 
ment of Colored People, 185, 187, 

National Conference of Christians and 
Jews, 221 

National self-interest, 136 

National Urban League, 185 

Natural selection, theory of, 60, 68 

Nature, and the supernatural, 72-74 


classes of, 184 
education of: 
in Georgia, 178 
Rust University, 53-54 

Neighborhood idea, 20 

New York School of Social Work, 23 

Newman, Cardinal, 247-248 

Newman, Henry Stanley, 7 

Niebuhr, Reinhold, 19 

Nietzsche, Friedrich, 241 

Niles, David K., 189 

Nisei, 147 

Non-resistance, Tolstoi's doctrine of, 243 

Non-violence, and peace, 29 

Northland College, 15 

Northwestern University, 55-56 

Noyes, Jesse Smith, Foundation, 185 

Numbers, transfinite, 40-41 

Ockham, William of, 87 
O'Connor, Basil, 219-229 

biographical sketch, 282 

home background of, 220 

on education, 225 

on health of mankind, 226-228 

on merit system and labor, 222-224 

work in humanitarian organizations, 


Ohio Wesleyan University, 50, 55 
Olivet College, 231, 234 
Ordination, validity of, 45 
Organized religion, 17-19, 26 

of tomorrow, 27 

Origin of Species, Charles Darwin, 59 
Orlando, Florida, 183 
"Overbeliefs," 24, 27 
Over-simplification, vice of, 233 
Oxford University, 143, 236-239 

academic degrees, 45 

Pacifism, 30, 244 

Paine College, 181 

Paine Institute, 180 

Palestine, 138, 169-171, 192-193, 215- 


Panic of 1893, 134 
Parker, Carleton H., 17 
Passover, 255 
Pastoral care, psychological interpretation 

of, 250 

Paton, J. L., 293 

Peabody, Francis Greenwood, 17 
Pearl Harbor, 135 
Penn College, Iowa, 7, 9, 10 
Pennsylvania, University of, 56 
Perry, James DcWolfe, 239 
Perry, Leslie, 188 
Personnel Administration: Its Principles 

and Practice, Metcalf and Tead, 22 


Phelps-Stokes Fund, 185 

incompletely understood, 42 

physicists and, 61 
Philadelphia, Declaration of, 134 
Phillips, Charles H., 190 
Philosophic scholarship, problems of, 79 
Philosophy, 79-89 

French, 85-87 

literature and courses of 1920*8, 82-85 
Physical phenomena, knowledge of, 39 
Physical reality, 38 
Physicists, and phenomena, 61 
Physics, and ultimate reality, 39 
Pickett, Clarence E., 1-14 

abroad, 11-12 

American Friends Service Committee, 

as college professor, n 

as minister, 10-11 

biographical sketch, 275 

brothers and sisters, 1-2, 4-5 

education of, 5, 7-10 

father of, 2-4 

leader in Young Friends' Movement, 

mother of, 1-2 

vocations available to, 9 
Pickett, Minnie, 1-2, 4-5 
Pilgrims, descendants of, 36 
Pitts, James, 6 
Plato, 88, 89 
Pompey, 137 
Pool, David de Sola, 201-217 

biographical sketch, 281 

books that influenced, 206 

education of, 206-207, 208-209, 211- 

home background of, 20 iff. 

in New York City, 212 

in Palestine, 215-217 

influence of arts on, 207-208 

ministry of, 212 

persons who influenced, 207 

religious views of, 213-217 

World Wars I and II, 214-215 

writings of, 213-214 

Zionist interests of, 208-209 

Pool, Tamar Hirshenson de Sola, 212 

Porter, Frank, 239 

Prayer in the home, 3-4 

Presbyterian Church, Confession of Faith, 


Probability of error, 66 
Psychodynamics and the Allergic Patient, 

Dr. Harold Abramson, 124 
Psychosomatic medicine, 124 
Punishment, crusades of, 13 
Purdy, Alexander, 8 
Purdy, Ellison R., 9-10 

Quakers (see also Society of Friends) : 

concerned, 7 

"sense of the meeting,'* 247 
Quanta, 38 

Quest of the Historical Jesus, Albert 
Schweitzer, 142 

Race Relations, American Council on, 185 
Race relations, Channing Tobias on, 

Racial intolerance, 17-18 
Racial segregation, 182-183 
Randall, James Rider, 177 
Raushenbush, Walter, 16 

of Quakers, 14 

social, 20 

Red Cross, American National, 221 
Reform Judaism, 255-256, 263 
Reissig, Dr. Frederick E., 188 
Relativity, and absolute simultaneity, 40 

and evolution, 55 

"high," and social responsibility, 29 

ideal personal, 76 

organized, 17-19, 26 

orthodoxy of, 250 

public profession of, 58 

science and, 58 

Religionists, professional, 18-19 
Religious Education Movement, 250 

freedom and, 64-67 

heredity and, 65, 66 

relative, principle of, 66 


2 93 

Retaliation, effects of, 14 

Revival meetings, 6, 57-58 

Rhodes Scholarship, 121, 143, 236- 


Robin, Leon, 87 
Rodgers, Henry Wade, 55 
Rogers, Robert W., 190 
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 118 
Roosevelt, Franklin D., 140, 186-187 
Roosevelt, Franklin D., Jr., 187-188 
Roosevelt, Theodore, 34 
Rosenwald, Julius, 191-192 
Ruskin, John, 206 
Russell, Henry Norris, 31-45 

at Princeton, 35, 37 

biographical sketch, 276 

children of, 35, 36 

church membership, 35-38 

education of, 33-34 

family background, 31-32 

religious background, 32-33 

religious convictions, 38-45 
Russell, Mrs. Henry Norris, 34, 35 
Rust, Reverend R. S., 53 
Rust University, 53-54 

Salt Lake City, 131 

Salt Lake Temple, 136-139 

Salvation Army, 205 

Sanday, Canon, 247 

Schieffelin, William Jay, 185 

Schiller, on religion, 26 


and teaching, 112 

fellowship of, 45 
Scholasticism, 89, 292 
Schweitzer, Albert, 242 

and religion, 58 

and the absolute, 65-67 

concerns of, 67 

ethics of, 74 

shift from, to humanities, 197 

social uses of, 29 

Science and Health with Key to the 
Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, 121, 

Science and Theology, History of the 

Warfare of, Andrew White, 32 
Scientific humanism, 24 
Scopes, John T., 66 
Seder service, 255 
Segregation, Channing Tobias on, 182- 

i8 3 

Segregation in the Nation's Capital, Na 
tional Committee on, 185 
Semitic languages, 260 
Sephardic Jews, 201 
Sermons, 250-251 
Shaw, G. B., 20 
Shinto, 133, 157 

priests, 152 

shrine, 137 
Shishkin, Boris, 188 
Shulamith School for Girls, 175 
Sin, as fact, 19 
Sinnott, Edmund W., quoted, 123- 


Smith, George Albert, 148 
Smith, Joseph, 138, 142, 157 
Smythe, Dr. Newman, 240 
Social realism, 20 
Socialism, Fabian, 209 
Society of Friends, 2$., 18 

American Friends Service Committee, 

development of, 6 

in England, 7 

ministry, 10-11 

views on evil, 12-13 

Young Friends' Movement, 11 
Socrates, 89 

on excess, 30 
Sola, Abraham de, 201 
Sola, Samuel de, 201 
Soldier Education Bill, 155 
Sophocles, on labor, 222 
South Africa, 195, 197 
South End House, Boston, 20 
Southern Regional Council, 185 
Speer, Robert E., 235 
Sperry, Willard L., 231-251 

and doctrine of non-resistance, 243- 

at Andover Theological Seminary, 244 


Sperry, Willard L. (cont.) : 

before Association of Congregational 
Ministers, 239-240 

biographical sketch, 282 

books that influenced, 234 

Dean of -Harvard Divinity School, 245- 

death of friend, 235 

education of, 234-240 

father of, 231, 236 

in Boston, Massachusetts, 243-244 

in Fall River, Massachusetts, 240-243 

mother of, 231 

religious background, 231, 232-234 

religious ideas of, 248-251 

Rhodes Scholar, 236-239 

Y.M.C.A. traveling student secretary, 


Sperry, Mrs. Willard L., 238 
Spinoza, 82, 83, 84, 87, in, 113 
Spiritual, meaning of term, 48 
Spy scares, 49 

State, church and, separation of, 142-143 
Stokes, Anson Phelps, 185 
Strauss, Rabbi Leon, 254 
Streeter, Canon, 237, 238 
Student Volunteer Movement, 8-9 
Sun Yat-Sen, 141 
Supernatural, nature and, 72-74 
Survival, universal goal, 69 
Swastika sign, 138 

Taft, William Howard, 140 
Talmud, 161 

new edition of, 166 
Talmudic Encyclopedia, 166 
Taoism, 158 

profession, 9 

scholarship and, 112 
Tead, Ordway, 15-30 

author, Instincts in Industry, 17 

biographical sketch, 275-276 

Board of Higher Education, New York 
City, 23-24 

books that influenced, 16-17 

co-author, Personnel Administration: 
Its Principles and Practice, 22 

Tead, Ordway (cont.): 
editor, 22-23 
education of, 16-17 
family of, 15-16 
industrial counselor, 21-22 
labor relations training for War De 
partment, 22 
leader of boys' clubs, 16 
on moral responsibility, 28-29 
reasons for withdrawing from minis 
try, 17-20 
secretary of Massachusetts Committee 

on Unemployment, 21 

Columbia University, 23 
New York School of Social Work, 


theistic view of, 24-27 
trustee, Briarcliff Junior College, 24 
Tead, Mrs. Ordway, 24 
Technical assistance, 3 
Teleology, Huxley on, 71-72 
Temples, religious, 136-140 
Terminology, and religion, 11-12 
Terry, General, 186-187 
Theological eclecticism, 248 
Theological orthodoxy, 250 

contributions by physics to, 39 
new, 251 

Thomas, Edna Harker, 134, 148 
Thomas, Elbert D., 129-158 

Thomas Jefferson, World Citizen, 

I4i, 143 

World Unity Through Study of His 
tory, 138, 154 
biographical sketch, 278-279 
childhood memories, 143-147 
during World Wars, 135, 146-147, 150, 


education of, 132, 135, 140-141 
home and family, 132^. 
in Germany, 151, 155 
in Japan, 134, 135, 141 
in Senate, 154-155 
influence of great men on, 140 
instructor at University of Utah, 154 



Thomas, Elbert D. (cont.) : 

messages to Japanese people, 135 

missionary to Japan, 134 

Mormon background, 131$. 

Oberleander award, 151 

on experience vs. book training, 153- 


on international relations, 141 
Oriental courses, 155 
temple experiences, 136-140 
travels after World War II, 155-156 

Thomas Jefferson, World Citizen, Elbert 
D. Thomas, 141, 143 

Thomson, J. J., 33 

Thucydides, on history, 77 

Tobias, Channing H., 177-199 
as teacher, 181 

background in Georgia, 177-181 
biographical sketch, 280-281 
daughters of, 199 
education of, 180-181 
family background, 179-180 
meeting with Gandhi, 192-195 
on classes of Negroes, 185 
on race relationships, 182$. 
organizations associated with, 185 
persons who have influenced, 185-189 
religious influences on, 189-199 
Y.M.C.A. work, 192 

Tobias, Mrs. Channing H., 199 

Tokyo, Friends' Girls School in, 4 

Tolstoi, Count Leo, 241, 243 

Torah, 160, 161, 162, 164, 165, 172-174 

Tories, 35 

Tradition, validity of, 45 

Transfinite numbers, 40-41 

Trial and error behavior, 69 

Trinitarian creeds, 40, 41 

Trotsky, Leon, 141 

Truman, Harry $., 155, 156, 188-189 
and civil rights, 183 

Tuskegee Institute, 191, 221 

Twain, Mark (see Clemens, Samuel) 

Tyrrell, Father, 249 

Uncertainty principle, 38, 66 
insurance, 21 

Unemployment (cont.): 

Massachusetts Committee on, 21 
Unesco, 107, 277 

Committee on Human Rights, 109 
General Conferences of, 107-108 
United Nations, Charter of, 107 
United Nations Educational, Scientific 
and Cultural Organization 
(Unesco), 107-109 (see also 
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 

Universe and Dr. Einstein, The, Lincoln 

Barnett, 124 

coal mining industry in, 150 
memories of, 143-147 
University of, 140-141, 146 

Valentine, Robert G., 21 
Versailles Treaty, 14 
Virgin Birth, 232, 264-265 

Walker Brothers, Salt Lake City, 132 

Walker, Charles T., 178-179 

Walker, Dr. George Williams, 180-181, 


Walker, Wil listen, 239 
Wallace, Alfred Russell, 60 
Wallas, Graham, 20 
Walton, George, 177 
War, moral dilemmas presented by, 244 
Warsaw, Jews in, 173 
Washington, Booker T., 191, 194 
Washington, D.C., 129-130 
Watson, William, 43 
Webb, Beatrice and Sidney, 20 
Wells, Emaline B., 145 
Wells, H. G., 20, 206 
Welsh miners, in Utah, 150 
Whewell, William, 73 
White, Andrew, 32 
White, Walter, 187, 188-189 
Whitehead, Alfred North, 25, 63-64, 

Whittaker, Sir Edmund, 64 

Williams, Albert Rhys, 16 
Williams, Robert S., 190 


Willkie, Wendell L., 185 

Wilson, Charles E., 185, 189 

Wilson, T. Woodrow, 140, 145, 146 

Wise, Dr. Isaac M., 257 

Wise, Rabbi Stephen S., 186 

Women, role of, 29 

Women's suffrage, 143-144 

Woodbridge, Frederick J. E., 82-83 

Woodman, Charles M., 10 

Woods Hole, Massachusetts, biological 

center at, 54, 55, 277 
Woods, Robert A., 20 ' 

challenge of, 251 

key, of moral responsibility, 28-29 
Work relations, 28 
World dominion, 105 
World War I, conflicts during, 80, in 
World War II, and cultural interrelations, 

102, 106 
World wars, and the Jews, 167 

Worship, enriching of, 250 
Wright, Richard R., 178 

Yale Divinity School, 239-240 

Yeshiva of Volozhin, 160 

Young, Brigham, 144, 145 

Young Friends' Movement, n 

Young Judea, 212 

Young Men's Christian Association, 185, 

Young Women's Christian Association, 


Zion, Lovers of, 161 
Zionism, 208-209 

ancient Biblical, 216 

orthodox branch of movement, 174 

Religious, 165 
Zionist Commission, 215 
Zionist Congress, Zurich (1937), 213 
Zoroastrianism, 158 

1 04 885